Dreben, Samuel (1878–1925)

By: Jane Burges Perrenot

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: May 12, 2016

Sam Dreben, a soldier of fortune who early in his career won the name of "Fighting Jew," was born in Poltava, Ukraine, on June 1, 1878. In 1896 he went to England and by January 1899 had immigrated to America, where he enlisted in the United States Army. He fought in the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion, and the Philippine Insurrection. In 1904 he made an unsuccessful attempt to enlist in the Japanese army to avenge Russian persecution of the Jews. He again enlisted in the United States Army and served three years at Fort Bliss. He fought with the rebels in Honduras, took part in the Madero Revolution in Mexico, and supplied ammunition to Francisco (Pancho) Villa. When Villa's forces raided Columbus, New Mexico, however, Dreben, loyal to his adopted country, volunteered to become Gen. John J. Pershing's scout on the punitive expedition against the Villistas. When America entered World War I, Dreben, then a resident of El Paso, enlisted in Company A of the 141st Texas Infantry. As first sergeant of that company, he served with great bravery and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Croix de Guerre with palm, and the M├ędaille Militaire. General Pershing, who praised Dreben as "the finest soldier and one of the bravest men" he had ever known, chose him to be one of the honor guard at the funeral of the Unknown Soldier. Subsequently, Dreben was a successful insurance salesman until his death in Los Angeles on March 15, 1925.

Martin Zielonka, "The Fighting Jew," Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society 31 (1928).

  • Peoples
  • Jews
  • Military
  • Soldiers
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Jane Burges Perrenot, “Dreben, Samuel,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/dreben-samuel.

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May 12, 2016