Since its original printing in 1952, the publication of the Handbook of Texas has been made possible through the support of its users. As an independent nonprofit, TSHA relies on your contributions to close the funding gap for the online Handbook and keep it a freely accessible resource for users worldwide. Please make a donation today to preserve the most comprehensive encyclopedic resource on Texas history. Donate Today »


Jane Burges Perrenot
Samuel Dreben
Photograph, Portrait of Samuel Dreben. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Grave of Samuel Dreben
Photograph, Grave of Samuel Dreben in Glendale, California. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

DREBEN, SAMUEL (1878–1925). 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 Médaille 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).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, Jane Burges Perrenot, "DREBEN, SAMUEL," accessed August 25, 2019,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on May 18, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox