Thorne, Larry Alan, MAJ

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Last Rank
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
1542-Infantry Unit Commander
Last MOS Group
Infantry (Officer)
Primary Unit
1965-1999, 1542, POW/MIA
Service Years
1954 - 1965
Foreign Language(s)


Special Forces

Two Overseas Service Bars

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by MAJ Mark E Cooper (ATWS Senior Military Advisor) to remember Thorne, Larry Alan (Lauri Allan Torni ), MAJ.

If you knew or served with this Soldier and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
Casualty Info
Home Town
Last Address
Norwalk, CT

BURIED AT: SECTION 60 SITE 8136 - Arlington National Cemetery

Casualty Date
Oct 18, 1965
Hostile, Died while Missing
Air Loss, Crash - Land
Quang Nam
Vietnam War/Defense Campaign (1965)
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Panel 2E Line 126

 Official Badges 

German Ski and Winter Warfare Edelweiss Badge Special Forces Group

 Unofficial Badges 

 Photo Album   (More...

 Ribbon Bar

Combat Infantryman 1st Award

Master ParachutistMilitary Freefall Parachutist
Special Forces
Germany Jump Wings (Silver)

 Unit Assignments
77th Special Forces Group11th Airborne Division10th Special Forces Group (Airborne)7th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)MACV Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG)POW/MIA
  1955-1957, 1761, 77th Special Forces Group
  1957-1959, 1010, 11th Airborne Division
  1959-1962, 1542, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
  1963-1964, 1542, 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group/A Company
  1964-1964, 1542, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne)
  1964-1965, 1542, MACV Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG)
  1965-1999, 1542, POW/MIA
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1962-1965 Vietnam War/Advisory Campaign (1962-65)
  1965-1965 Vietnam War/Defense Campaign (1965)
 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Name: Larry Alan Thorne 
Rank/Branch: Major, United States Army
Unit: Headquarters Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Detachment SD 5891, 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces With orders to Studies and Observation Group Long Thanh, South Vietnam 
Date of Birth: 28 May 1919 (Viipuri, Finland)
Home of Record: Norwalk, Connecticut
Date of Loss: 18 October 1965
Country of Loss: South Vietnam (official); Laos (actual)
Status in 1973: Killed/Body Not Recovered
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: CH34 "Seahorse"
Other Personnel In Incident: (none missing)
Larry Alan Thorne was born Lauri Allan Torni in Viipuri, Finland. As a young adult, he enlisted in the Finish Army where he obtained the rank of Captain. During the early years of World War II, he developed, trained and commanded the Finish ski troops. Under his strict and demanding leadership, the ski troops fought the Russians deep behind enemy lines for extended periods of time. During Finland's wars against the former Soviet Union, he was awarded every medal for bravery that Finland could bestow including the Knight of the Mannerheim Cross, which is the equivalent of the American Congressional Medal of Honor. After Finland fell to the communists, Captain Torni joined the German SS in order to continue fighting the communists. After World War II, Lauri Torni made his way to the United States where he enlisted in the U.S. Army under the Lodge Bill. After completing basic training, Larry Thorne was selected for the budding Special Forces program. He quickly rose through the ranks, and with the assistance of allies within the military, received a commission. In 1964, Larry Thorne served his first 6-month tour of duty in South Vietnam.
In February 1965, then Captain Larry Thorne returned to Long Thanh, South Vietnam for his second tour of duty. While assigned to Headquarters, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam; Captain Thorne was instrumental in establishing the standard operating procedures employed by the fledgling Studies and Observation Group, better known by its acronym "MACV-SOG." MACV-SOG was a joint service unconventional warfare task force engaged in highly classified operations throughout Southeast Asia. The 5th Special Forces Group channeled personnel into MACV-SOG (although it was not a Special Forces unit) through Special Operations Augmentation (SOA), which provided their "cover" while under secret orders to MACV-SOG. The teams performed deep penetration missions of strategic reconnaissance and interdiction that were called, depending on the location and time frame, "Shining Brass" "Daniel Boone," "Salem House" or "Prairie Fire" missions.
When North Vietnam began to increase its military strength in South Vietnam, NVA and Viet Cong troops again intruded on neutral Laos for sanctuary, as the Viet Minh had done during the war with the French some years before. This border road was used by the Communists to transport weapons, supplies and troops from North Vietnam into South Vietnam, and was frequently no more than a path cut through the jungle covered mountains. US forces used all assets available to them to stop this flow of men and supplies from moving south into the war zone.
In September 1965, the infiltration of reconnaissance teams into Laos, Codenamed: "Shining Brass," was approved, but severe limitations by Washington restricted the teams to penetrate no deeper than 50 kilometers into Laos. In case the team was captured the cover story derived for the first Shining Brass mission was that "they were looking for a crashed US Air Force C-123 cargo aircraft that was lost near the South Vietnamese/Lao border." Further, in conjunction with planning cross-border missions, Larry Thorne flew as the observer for many intelligence gathering reconnaissance missions over eastern Laos. Because of this, he was very familiar with the entire area in which MACV-SOG's teams would be operating.
One of the earliest helicopters employed in Southeast Asia, and the primary Marine Corps helicopter used during the early years of the war, was the Sikorsky UH34D Seahorse. This aircraft was already quite old when they arrived in the battle zone. However, both the US and South Vietnamese military found them to be extremely effective throughout the war. The Seahorse was frequently used to insert MACV-SOG teams into Laos.
On 18 October 1965, the first MACV-SOG cross-border mission was to be inserted by South Vietnamese Air Force helicopters into a target area approximately 20 miles northwest of Kham Duc known as "D-1" to locate and report on North Vietnamese activity operating on and near Highway 165. All personnel were initially transported to Kham Doc Forward Operating Base (FOB) in preparation for their launch into Laos in search of what would eventually be known as the "Ho Chi Minh Trail." Master Sergeant Charles "Slats" Petry, team leader; Sergeant First Class Willie Card, 1 South Vietnamese Army Lieutenant and 7 Nungs comprised Recon Team (RT) Iowa, the team to be inserted.
As the men of RT Iowa prepared their weapons and gear, Major Norton and Captain Thorne brought the SVAF Kingbee, US Army Huey and USAF Forward Air Controller (FAC) aircrews together in the operations shack to plan the team's insertion at dusk. RT Iowa's landing zone (LZ) would be a slash-and-burn area that resembled an old logging clear-cut from the Pacific Northwest. U.S. Air Force Major Harley B. Pyles, pilot; and U.S. Marine Corps Captain Winfield W. Sisson, observer and Marine MACV-SOG air liaison officer; comprised the crew of an O1E Bird Dog, call sign "Bird Dog 55," the number 2 aircraft in a flight of two that would coordinate all aircraft involved in inserting RT Iowa. Major Harold Nipper flew the lead Bird Dog. In addition to the FACs, the U.S. Air Force provided a flight of B-57s to conduct a Combat Air Patrol (CAP) for this mission should the ground team run into trouble and greater firepower was needed.
At 1745 hours, both FACs departed Kham Duc. Minutes later Major Pyles transmitted the weather conditions were marginal, with clouds below the mountaintops and increasing ground fog. In spite of the existing conditions, the FAC pilot believed the low flying helicopters could weave around the worst of it and called for the rest of the mission's aircraft to launch. At 1800 hours, the Kingbee helicopters lifted off with Cowboy, piloting the lead SVAF Kingbee; and Mustachio piloting the #2 Kingbee. The third Kingbee was a chase aircraft that would retrieve the crew and passengers of any aircraft that went down. Captain Thorne, who was not about to remain at Kham Duc, was the only passenger aboard the chase aircraft. US Army Huey gunships launched at the same time to provide air cover should it be needed at any time during the mission.
As the Kingbees and Huey gunships flew low over the countryside, all they could see were rolling hills, wild rivers and waterfalls. The weather proved especially hazardous, forcing them to weaving between thunderheads and sunbeams while avoiding sporadic .50 caliber machinegun fire, all of which missed. The flight arrived over the target area just before sundown. The all aircraft circled the area looking for a way to get down to the clearing through the thick angry clouds that blanketed the area. Minutes before Captain Thorne intended to cancel the mission and return to Kham Duc, the clouds opened up slightly allowing the two Kingbees carrying RT Iowa to spiral into the slash-and-burn clearing, rapidly discharge their passengers and immediately climb for altitude. As Larry Thorne's helicopter and Major Pyles' Bird Dog attempted to descend, the clouds again closed up. Captain Thorne ordered the now empty Kingbees to return to Kham Duc. Shortly thereafter, Captain Thorne also released Bird Dog 55 and the Huey gunships to return to base.
As the weather worsened, Larry Thorne continued to orbit D-1 near the landing zone in case RT Iowa ran into trouble. As Cowboy and Mustachio flew toward the east, they reported low-level visibility so bad that they had to climb to 8,500 feet in order to clear the top of the clouds. Once Captain Thorne received a message from RT Iowa that their insertion was successful, he transmitted that his aircraft was also on its way back. At 1810 hours, Major Nipper released the B-57s and began his own return flight to Kham Duc. Approximately 5 minutes after receiving the patrol's report, the other aircrews heard a constant keying of a radio for roughly 30 seconds. After that, only silence was heard in response to repeated attempts to raise anyone aboard the Kingbee.
Intense search efforts were initiated at first light the next morning and continued for the next month, but found not trace of the missing Kingbee, its crew and passenger. Shortly after loss, Larry Thorne was reported as Missing in Action. Prior to his final mission, Larry Thorne had been recommended for promotion to Major and was being groomed for a staff position as an intelligence officer. His posthumous promotion to Major was approved in December 1965.
Early on 19 October 1966, the U.S. Army declared that Captain Larry A. Thorne was no longer being listed as Missing in Action, but had been declared Presumed Killed in Action in South Vietnam, not Laos. The Department of the Army officially stated, "On 18 October 1965, Major Thorne was a passenger aboard a Vietnamese Air Force CH34 helicopter which crashed about 25 miles south of DaNang." Prior to the end of the war, the wreckage of the Kingbee was found and a search and rescue-recovery (SAR) team inserted into the crash site. According to reports, the SAR personnel found and recovered the remains of the South Vietnamese aircrew, but found no sign of Larry Thorne either dead or alive.
The number of MACV-SOG missions conducted with Special Forces reconnaissance teams into Laos and Cambodia was 452 in 1969. It was the most sustained campaign of raiding, sabotage and intelligence gathering waged on foreign soil in US military history. These teams earned a global reputation as one of the most combat effective deep-penetration forces ever raised.
If Larry Thorne died in the loss of the Kingbee, he has a right to have his remains returned to his family, friends and country. However, if he survived, he most certainly could have been captured by NVA forces openly operating throughout the region and his fate, like that of other Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, could be quite different.
Since the end of the Vietnam War well over 21,000 reports of American prisoners, missing and otherwise unaccounted for have been received by our government. Many of these reports document LIVE America Prisoners of War remaining captive throughout Southeast Asia TODAY.
American military men in Vietnam and Laos were called upon to fly and fight in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured. It probably never occurred to them that they could be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.
Larry A. Thorne is the only American POW/MIA to fight communism under three flags - those of Finland, Germany and America.
Lauri Törni was born in Vyborg on May 28, 1919. After elementary school he finished a few grades of Vyborg modern lyseum, then commercial school. He became an active participant in the activities for boys in the civil guard. On September 3, 1938, he began his military career, which would from there on continue for 27 years almost without a pause. He volunteered in the military service, entering Battalion 4 of light infantry. As a non-commissioned officer serving in Infantry Battalion 4, Törni was assigned to a supplementary refresher course and ended up in the Winter War. He was a patrol leader and the deputy commander of a Swedish-speaking company within the battalion. Toward the end of the war he took Course 45 in the reserve officers’ school (RUK) in Niinisalo.

After RUK Törni was transferred from Infantry Regimen 12 to serve the armed forces as a platoon commander, hired for a supplementary second lieutenant. In May 1941 Finns were being recruited for military service and Törni, too, enlisted as a volunteer. However, he only served in the SS-troops (SS Freiwilligen Bataillon Nordost) in Germany from the beginning of June till the end of July. Due to the great numbers of officers in the battalion, Törni was returned to Finland with several other “extra officers”.

Next, Törni became the leader of the tank battalion (founded on August 15, 1941) of the light infantry battalion 8 in the first division. The battalion advanced to Karhumäki, Petrozavodsk and Käppäselkä. Törni was severely wounded by a mine on a nocturnal ski patrol in Malu on March 23, 1942. He was injured by splinters all over his body and suffered from a partial stroke. After Midsummer he returned from the stationary hospital in Seinäjoki to his previous detachment as the 1st company commander, having been promoted to First Lieutenant. When the aggressive warfare became stabilized, the detachment was disbanded and Törni was transferred to Infantry regimen 56.

Light infantry companies were established within the divisions to handle special missions. Men for these companies were selected out of volunteers and in January 1943 Törni was also given the order to form a light infantry company for the 1st division. This detachment was disbanded and in the summer Törni established a partisan defence detachment, which was brought under control of the reserve battalion of light infantry 15 in August. Törni was appointed commander of the light infantry company in December 1943. Törni led his company successfully in the heavy battles of summer 1944 and on July 9 he was nominated the 144th Knight of the Mannerheim Cross for his military merits. In the evening of July 13 major general Uno Fagernäs came to visit the company’s command post and gave lieutenant Lauri Törni the Mannerheim cross awarded by the supreme commander. After Finland withdrew from the war, Törni left for Germany to get further training in preparation of returning to Finland to organize resistance in case the Soviets were to occupy Finland. When Finland was not seized and Germany broke down, Törni surrendered to the Allies. He escaped from an English prison camp and, after a series of adventures, managed to return to Finland. In Finland Törni received a 6-year sentence to prison for anti-government activity. He escaped from prison once. President J. K. Paasikivi pardoned him already in December 1948. Thereafter Törni moved (1949-1951) to the United States through Sweden and Venezuela and managed to enlist in the US military force. Törni lost his Finnish military rank in 1950, the reason remains unsolved. The official establishing date of the light infantry company called Detachment Törni is December 3, 1943. In the spring of 1944 the members of the detachment received versatile training and their general fitness level was also raised through heavy exercises. In the summer, after the launch of a major Soviet attack, Detachment Törni had busy times ahead –form and skill were indeed required. Between June 20 and August 8 the detachment was constantly moving from one post to another, delivering counterblows when the enemy was threatening critically.
Altogether 239 people served in the detachment.

Törni started his military career in the US armed forces as a private in Fort Dix, New Jersey, in January 1954 under the name Larry A. Thorne. He was successful in service and completed training in signals, mountaineering and parachuting. He also performed HALO (high altitude low opening) jumps with a parachute. In the spring of
1957 Törni was ordered to join the 11th landing division of the special troops. In summer 1957 the division transferred to Bavaria in West Germany and was joined to the composition of NATO. Törni served in the 10th detachment for special mission warfare, located at the base of the Alpes in Bad Tölz.

The nature of missions assigned to Törni is well illustrated by an operation he was entrusted with in the Zagros mountains in Iran. A group of 12 men under Törni’s leadership recovered the remains of the crew of an American transport carrier that had hit a mountain, along with some classified equipment, finishing the operation by blowing up the plane’s fuselage. In 1963 Törni was sent on a field officer course in the infantry school of Fort Benning in Georgia. During the course he was ordered to serve in Vietnam for the first time. He served there from November 1963 to April 1964 and completed the course in December 1964. In January 1965 Törni received orders for service in Vietnam for the second and also for the last time. He was leading a special troops camp in Phan Chau and was wounded on June 12, 1965. Although Törni now had an opportunity to select more peaceful duties, he set off to be the commander of a special operations base and, true to his nature, also left to escort the first reconnaissance patrol of the secret Shining Brass-operation. Törni disappeared on the return flight to the military base of Khan Duc. The site of the helicopter crash was localized in 1998 and the crash site was investigated in July-August 1999. A Finnish search patrol participated in the search for the remains and specimen in July 20-27, 1999. We continue to wait for the DNA tests’ results from the USA.

Larry Thorne’s memorial service was held on November 9, 1966 officiated by his friend US Army Chaplain C. Cooley. The time between these two dates was spent growing up in Finland and in the Army of three different countries, Finland, Germany and the United States. Larry was an experienced Scuba diver, skydiver "HALO" (High Altitude, Low Opening), boxer, skier and mountain climber. Larry earned every medal that Finland could give, including three medals for combat wounds, and the Mannerheim Cross, Finland’s highest award. Larry was assigned to Military Assistance Command, Vietnam/Studies and Observation Group (MACV/SOG) and was this unit’s first MIA in Laos even though he was incorrectly listed as missing in Vietnam. At least fifty seven Americans were listed as MIA while serving their country in this unit.
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.

Finnish Army

Sept 3,1938 conscript
March 1, 1939 res. corporal
May 9, 1940 res. 2nd lieutenant
March 5, 1942 res. 1st lieutenant
Aug 28, 1944 res. captain
Oct 6, 1950 Removed from list of
officers due to lost military rank TasPres18/50
President of Rep.18/50


July 26, 1940 VM2
Aug 24, 1940 VM1
Oct 9, 1941 VR3
May 23,1942 VR4
July 9, 1944 Mannerheim-risti
The Winter War Commemorative Medal
The Div. Commemorative Cross
The Frontier Troops Cross
The Bronze Medal of the Armed Forc


German Army

May 18, 1941 Untersturmführer
April 15, 1945 Hauptsturmführer

Dec 11, 1943 II class Iron Cross


USA Army

Jan 28, 1954 PVT-1
May 28, 1954 PVT-2
Dec 20, 1954 PFC
April 28, 1955 CPL
Nov 17, 1955 SGT
Jan 09, 1957 1st LTN
Nov 30, 1960 CPT
Dec 16, 1965 MAJ*

* Promoted after missing

The Legion of Merit
The Distinguished Flying Cross
The Bronze Star
The Purple Heart (w/6 oak leaves)
The Army Commendation Medal
The Good Conduct Medal
The National Defense Service Medal
Republic of Vietnam Service Medal
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

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