Thorne, Larry Alan (Törni, Lauri).

Back to all people

- Medals

DE_Band_mit_RK_(1) (1)
Thorne, Larry Alan (Törni, Lauri).
finlandAirborneWaffen SSSS MemberMajor

Thorne, Larry Alan (Törni, Lauri), born 28-05-1919 in Viipuri, Finlandas the son of Hjalmar Aataminpoika Törni and Rosa Maria Kosonen.He was an athletic youngster and joined the Civil Guard early.

Törni entered military service 1938 and was promoted to Corporal before the Winter war began. He served as a patrol leader before he was sent to officer training for the duration of the war and was promoted to Second Lieutenant.

Having lost his home to the Russians, he enlisted in the German army to be able to fight his hated enemies. His rank was SS Untersturmführer. When he heard that Finland was engaging in another war he returned to Finland before he had finished training and made part of the German army. He was awarded the Iron Cross after he left Germany. The continuation war saw Törni leading platoons of machine guns as well as tanks and finally his own band of special forces operating deep behind enemy lines. His successful operations led to a bounty of 3 million Finnish marks placed on Törni’s head by the Russians.

Throughout, Törni was an effective guerilla fighter of such skill that the Soviets put a bounty on his head because of the casualties that his unit inflicted upon them. There is reportedly no record of the Soviets providing a bounty for any other Finnish soldier. The bounty was worth about $650,000 and, apparently, no one ever tried to collect.

All the while, Törni was tasked with leading elite ski units on dangerous missions behind Soviet lines. And while Törni was building this fearsome reputation, one of his soldiers was Mauno Koivisto,

who would later become president of Finland. Koivisto once said:

“Thorne, as a leader, was liked. In many ways he emphasized that we were all the same bunch, and he bore his share just like the others… He did not ask anyone to do something he did not do himself. He carried his own load, marched at the lead, and was one of us.”

He was promoted to Captain and awarded the prestigious Mannerheim Cross before the war was over. Törni did not like the heavy conditions of peace that the Russians imposed on Finland and he found himself back in German uniform fighting Russians as a Hauptsturmführer leading 200-300 marines.

After the Continuation War ended but the larger conflict of World War II was still raging, Törni sought to keep on fighting the Soviets. And while Finland had ceased Continuation War hostilities with the Soviets after coming to a territorial agreement, Nazi Germany was still at war with the Red Army. So, Törni joined with the Germans again in 1945 in the Waffen SS, before being captured by Allied forces as the war was coming to an end. They placed him in a POW camp, but Törni, true to form, escaped and made it back to Finland.

After World War II, he eventually made his way to the United States, changed his name to Larry Thorne and joined the U.S. Army in 1954, thanks to the Lodge-Philbin Act that permitted the recruitment of foreign nationals into the U.S. Armed Forces.

The newly christened Larry Thorne was befriended by Finnish-American officers who recognized his abilities and directed him to the Special Forces. There he became an instructor and taught skiing, survival, mountaineering, and guerrilla tactics.

Eventually, he attended airborne school and earned his silver wings as a Green Beret. He also went through Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a first lieutenant where he rose from recruit to officer in just three years before being promoted to captain.

As a Green Beret captain, Thorne was known as one of the toughest officers. He was extremely fit and often physically outperformed soldiers half his age. During one evaluation, a commanding officer once wrote: “I have not known any officer in his grade to whom he can be compared. He is over forty years old, but has the physical ability of a person of twenty-five.”

Still in fighting form in his mid-40s, Thorne served with the 10th Special Forces Group in West Germany as part of a search-and-rescue unit. He earned a reputation for fearlessness in leading operations to recover bodies and classified documents from a crashed airplane in the Zagros Mountains of Iran.

In November 1963, Thorne was sent to Vietnam. He served two tours and earned a Bronze Star for valor and two Purple Hearts. He continued to build his reputation for bravery by taking on difficult assignments and leading his men with courage and distinction during several tough operations.

For example, during his final tour as part of the 5th Special Forces Group,Thorne was leading a covert mission against a Viet Cong stronghold in Laos on 18-10-1965. He was flying in a South Vietnamese Air Force H-34 helicopter when the weather turned bad. Caught in heavy fog and rain, Thorne would not order his chopper to leave out of concern for the men on the ground that his chopper crew was supporting.

Death and burial ground of Thorne, Larry Alan.

Thorne, Larry Alan (Törni, Lauri).  

This is exactly the kind of courage and leadership for which Larry Thorne was known — but this was also his final mission. On 18-10-1965, he went on a covert mission into Laos. The weather grew so bad that the chopper crashed into a mountainside and all on board were killed. Also on board were three South Vietnamese crew members: Lieutenant Bao Tung Nguyen, First Lieutenant The Long Phan and Sergeant Vam Lanh Bui. Major Thorne, Larry Alan (Törni, Lauri, age 46, here, left, with his 3 crew members, on his way to the chopper , one of the few serving under three flags ,.is buried on Arlington National Cemetery, Section 60  Site 8136.

Share on :