(Lauri Alan Torni)
Major, U S Army Special Forces
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While serving in the Army of his native country, Captain Lauri Allan Torni (Larry Alan Thorne) was awarded Finland’s highest Medal for Valor, KNIGHT OF MANNERHEIM CROSS, equivalent to the CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR.
"Knight of Mannerheim Cross, CPT Lauri Alan Torni, A.K.A. MAJ Larry Alan Thorne".
FINLAND'S FREEDOM MEDAL
OF THE FREEDOM CROSS ORDER
1st CLASS 1939
FINLAND'S FREEDOM MEDAL
OF THE FREEDOM CROSS ORDER
2nd CLASS 1939
Awarded for Bravery in Action
(Lauri Allan Torni)
Lauri Allan Torni was born in Viipuri, Finland on May 28, 1919. His parents were Rosa and Jalmari Torni. He had two younger sisters. He also had an older brother who died on June 29,
1918. His father, Jalmari, was a ferryboat captain and sailed his vessel between the cities of the
Finnish Gulf. The Torni family was considered to be wealthy and secure. They owned a 16 room house and rented rooms to families with children. One of the renters was a brother to the Olympic Boxing Champion, Sven Suvion. It was from this individual that Lauri Alan Torni learned boxing and later became known as a tough officer in the Finnish, German and United States Armies. Lauri was taught the principals of Christianity and to love and respect his Country. He was taught by or encouraged in many skills by his father, such as skiing. He wasn’t very interested in school but showed great fascination and respect for the military establishment.
Lauri Allan Torni was sworn into the Finnish Army October 8, 1938. He began Reserve Component Training at the Finnish Army Non-commissioned Officer Academy and continued this until the Winter War began in 1939 when Russia attacked Finland. Torni began to demonstrate his abilities, in war, through the actual performance of his military duties. He was assigned to The 4th Jaeger Battalion as an Undersargent. Later in his career, as an Officer, He went on to command other Infantry units. One such unit actually had its own shoulder patch: a bolt of lightening crossing over a Capitol "T" (Torni). This patch provoked intrigue, fear and respect on all sides on the front lines. In the spring of 1944, the war took a devastating turn due to the failing German efforts. The Finns began to search for an escape from this deadly situation. Torni’s detachment and their weapons represented the elite of the time. Torni and his men knocked out the enemy’s fastest emergency ferryboats. After completing these almost impossible operations and escaping, Torni and his men marched from the battlefield singing his commander’s favorite song, …I am a gray headed man, small and shy...… When his detachment arrived at camp, the Company Commander met them with tears in his eyes. A grateful Finnish nation awarded Lauri Allan Torni with the rank of Captain and the "Cross of Mannerheim". The German nation awarded him with the "Iron Cross" The Russians offered 3 million Finnish Marks for him, dead or alive. Lauri Alan Torni did not surrender his weapons nor support the burdensome peace treaty signed between Finland and The Soviet Union. As a result he found himself in a POW camp from which he promptly escaped and went back to Finland. The Red ValPo arrested him and as a result he was given six years at hard labor. He escaped several time before finally being given amnesty in December 1948. He went to Sweden and later on to the United States. At age 35. The Knight of Mannerheim number 144, enlisted in the United States Army.
Throughout the late 1950,s, the United States Army Special Forces, Airborne, had been building a controversial force to conduct unconventional warfare. These unconventional
warfare warriors had to be able to master critical military skills needed to train and lead
guerrilla warriors, to be inserted anywhere in the world by any means of transportation,
to survive the most hostile environment, and to take care of themselves and others under
the pressures of harsh combat conditions and isolation. At the same time, these individuals
had to be independent thinkers, able to grasp opportunities and innovate with the materials
At hand. In order to control and lead irregular fighters, they had to understand people,
languages, and foreign cultures. Most important, the Special Forces warriors had to possess
the intelligence, knowledge, tact, and ability to successfully transform ordinary civilians into
an effective military threat to a strong and cunning occupation army.
In addition to recruiting rugged individuals possessing these attributes from regular US Army units, the Special Forces attracted a proven lot of hardy, versatile volunteers from Finland and other European countries through the Lodge Act, Public Law 957 of the 81st congress, sponsored by Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.. Regardless of his background, each Special Forces volunteer underwent strenuous physical conditioning, including parachute training, and was extensively tested to determine his skills and abilities. He then received comprehensive instruction in his specialty area.
On January 28, 1954, 35 years old, Larry Alan Thorne enlisted in the United States Army with the rank of Private, and underwent basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Upon completion of this training, Thorne was promoted to Sargent and assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado as a Mountain Climbing and Winter Warfare Instructor.
In late 1954, Thorne was selected for Special Forces training and was, subsequently, assigned to the 77th Special Forces Group, Airborne, at Fort Bragg, NC. In the Fall of 1956, was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army.
Lieutenant Thorne served with the 10th Special Forces Group, Airborne, in Bad Tolz, West Germany from 1958 to 1962. During this assignment he was promoted to Captain. Captain Thorne was an expert in cross-country skiing, mountain climbing, survival techniques and guerrilla warfare tactics, and conducted demanding, realistic training in these subjects for 10th Special Forces Group, Airborne, detachments.
In 1962, Captain Thorne led a detachment from the 10th Special Forces Group, Airborne on a very arduous, demanding mission to recover Top Secret documents from a United States Air Force aircraft that had crashed on a 14,000 feet mountain range near the Iran-Soviet Union border. (Coy Melton, Special Forces Association, Chapter 33, was on this mission with Captain Thorne) Previous efforts by teams from the US Air Force and the West German army had been unsuccessful. Captain Thorne and his Special Forces detachment found the ice covered aircraft, recovered the sensitive documents, and evacuated the bodies of those men found with the aircraft.
Captain Thorne returned to Fort Bragg, NC in 1963 and was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group, Airborne. (The 77th had been redesignated the 7th) In November 1963 he took 7th Special Forces Group, Airborne Detachment A-734 to Vietnam and in April 1964 established a Special Forces A camp at Tinh Bien near the Seven Mountains region in the Mekong Delta. This detachment killed so many Viet Cong that it became a serious threat to their lines of communication into Cambodia. During this tour, Captain Thorne earned the Bronze Star and Purple Heart Medals.
In December 1964, Captain Thorne was transferred to the 5th Special Forces Group, Airborne, and was assigned to the B Detachment located in Phuoc Vinh Province. In mid-1965 he was reassigned to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, Studies and Observation Group (MACVSOG).
On October 18, 1965, Captain Thorne went on a MACVSOG mission and did not return. The Vietnamese Air Force CH-34 Helicopter on which he was a passenger crashed about 25 miles southwest of Da Nang. (Coordinates 152558N 1074744E, YC895105). When the rescue team went to the site, they recovered the remains of the Vietnamese crew, but found no sign of Captain Thorne. He had simply disappeared.
Major Thorne’s photo is maintained in a pre-capture photo group shown to defectors for POW-MIA identification purposes, yet Major Thorne was classified as killed in action on October 19, 1966. His remains were never found. Men who served with him believe that he is still alive. Chapter 33, Special Forces Association is named in honor and in memory of him. We believe that no man is better equipped to survive than Larry Alan Thorne.
In Finland, Lauri Alan Torni is a national hero. In the United States, Larry Alan Thorne is forgotten by all but a few. His family believes that he is still alive, even considering that he is 79 years old this year (1998). Lauri Alan Torni hated the threat of communism so much that he was willing to join any army to fight it. We must never forget men like Larry Alan Thorne. It is to them that we owe our freedom. We also owe them theirs.
*****More to come*****
Researched and written by Olga Eva Roemer and Bennie R. McDonald.