Fighting under three flags.
Article about: Few men have in recent times managed to fight under three flags in their lifetime. As Ive always thought the story of Lauri Törni interesting, I thought I'd highlight him and another of the
Fighting under three flags.
Few men have in recent times managed to fight under three flags in their lifetime.
As Ive always thought the story of Lauri Törni interesting, I thought I'd highlight him and another of the men fighting under three flags here (prompted by a comment from one of our Finnish members).
Of vastly different background and origin, both men fought under three flags but due to very different circumstances.
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.
Source and more info on the discovery of LT and his 'Swedish K' on the crash site and relocation of his remains here:
Larry Alan Thorne, Major, United States Army
The above is just a brief description. Plenty of info and interestind tidbits on Törni out there. I encourage you to make a search yourself. Trust me, its well worth it and VERY interesting.
Antony Beevor released a history of The Second World War last year that emphasizes the extraordinary human disruption of the conflict; the travails of those who lived as well as the losses of those who died. He also seeks to link the Asian and European conflicts more tightly. The book begins with the tale of Yang Kyoungjong, which has an indefinable appeal to anyone who thinks about the history of the Korean peninsula:
“In June 1944, a young soldier surrendered to American paratroopers in the Allied invasion of Normandy. At first his captors thought that he was Japanese, but he was in fact Korean. His name was Yang Kyoungjong. In 1938, at the age of eighteen, Yang had been forcibly conscripted by the Japanese into their Kwantung Army in Manchuria. A year later, he was captured by the Red Army after the Battle of Khalkhin Gol and sent to a labour camp. The Soviet military authorities, at a moment of crisis in 1942, drafted him along with thousands of other prisoners into their forces. Then, early in 1943 he was taken prisoner by the German army at the Battle of Kharkov in Ukraine. In 1944, now in German uniform, he was sent to France to serve with an Ostbataillon supposedly boosting the strength of the Atlantic Wall at the base of the Cotentin Peninsular inland from Utah Beach. After time in a prison camp in Britain, he went to the United States where he said nothing of his past. He settled there and finally died in Illinois in 1982 [SH Comment: Other accounts we could find suggest he died in 1992].”
North Korea: Witness to Transformation | Antony Beevor on Yang Kyoungjong
Here an interesting article by the always excellent Antony Beevor in the Daily Mail:
Second World War: German and Japanese soldier stories that will change your perception for ever | Mail Online
Pics below of both men. I'll let it be up to you, to figure out who is who.....
If this is outside the scope of the now more strict guidelines (or should I say outside the existing but more strictly enforced guidelines), just delete the post.
Interesting read , thanks for posting scout
THX Scout. This always wet my eyes, sad end to Warrior.
btw , when Törni fought in east front the Russians promised 1000.000 Finnish Marks about Thorne and that was huge money but no Judas found from our troops.
man this guy really hated communists
Very interesting I have heard of many other SS soldiers after the war serving in the US special forces in the early 50s when the US special forces where first created
The lives of both men - Törni/Thorne and Yang - make for a fascinating read, no doubt.
Personally, I think that Törni/Thorne was the more interesting and remarkable character, but it is Yang's life that is the more interesting and the stranger one. Also, it has an immensely tragic touch to it.
While the flags he served under and the fronts that he fought at changed, Törni/Thorne essentially fought the same fight - that against Communism and the Soviet Union and her allies - for all his military life, acting on his own volition and from his own convictions.
Yang, on the other hand, was an ordinary man caught up in insane times and drawn into the maelstrom of World War II. Imagine: He was a Korean who was drafted into the Japanese army to fight against the Soviet Union, then became a Soviet soldier fighting against Germany and finally a German soldier fighting the Western Allies. None of these fights were "his" fight and not once did he fight for his own country...
Yang's story was the inspiration for the Korean war film "My Way" [see: My Way (2011 film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ], although, apart from the stations of the main character's military life, this is a wholly fictitious story.
Another remarkable military career is that of Ivor Thord who participated in no less than 13 armed conflicts on 4 continents with a diverse assortment of armed forces: Ivor Thord-Gray - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Last edited by HPL2008; 01-07-2014 at 11:05 AM.
There are also some photos of Lauri Törni wearing his German and Finnish medal bars on his US uniform , A interesting man for sure and still well liked in Finland
Most here will most likely find Törni the most interesting person - at least as a military person.
We no doubt know more about Törni. He was dedicated and had more of a plan ...or one might say agenda.
Yang's fate is interesting - or even fascinating - but its more like he somehow managed to stay alive by accident or by good fortune, even though on the other hand he through sheer bad/good luck got taken as a POV not once but several times. Being taken as a POV is of course not good luck per se, but better than being cold in the ground....at least in this case.
I'm not saying, that Yang was a follower or that he didnt have any initiative (he was clearly a survivor), but fate more or less took over the reins in Yang's instance.
As you aptly state it, he was drawn into the maelstrom. He got whirled along seemingly without having any power to change his fate the way Törni did. Again, he (Yang) was still clearly resourceful, as he survived.
Two very different men, but also very different circumstances.
Had YK not by accident managed to survive the ordeal and getting himself taked prisoner in France, we might never have known about him....or cared.
I find both Törni and Yang very interesting for very different reasons.
There is a Korean film out called "My Way", which deals with the subject ..
Well worth watching ..... be prepared .. it's pretty gory !
My Way (2011) Movie U.S. Trailer - YouTube
This (fan-made) video featuring Andrea Bocelli's beautiful end credit song also gives an impression of the movie:
Andrea Bocelli - To Find My Way (Main OST of My Way) - YouTube
In Flags, Banners & Pennants
In Flags, Banners & Pennants
In Insignia, Flags and regalia
In Flags, Banners & Pennants