The Fighting Jew
El Judío Luchador

The Fighting Jew

Samuel Dreben WWI soldier of fortune - 1918. Dreben enlisted on June 27, 1899 in the 14th Infantry Regiment and was shipped to the Philippines (acquired by the U.S. as a result of its victory in the Spanish American War) to help put down a native insurrection led by Emilio Aguinaldo. He quickly distinguished himself in battle. Later, he participated in the rescue of westerners besieged in Beijing during the Boxer Rebellion. Mustered out in 1902, he took a succession of unsatisfactory jobs, including an attempt to fight for the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese War, before reenlisting in 1904. This time, he was stationed at Fort Bliss. It was here that he was trained how to use a machine gun, a skill for which he became well-known (and would need in later years). He made friends in nearby El Paso, Texas before his second army hitch ended in 1907. Together with two other soldiers of fortune and machine gun experts, Tracy Richardson and Emil Lewis Holmdahl, Dreben's wanderings then took him to Central America. He worked as a security guard in the Panama Canal Zone. After several unsuccessful business ventures, he was recruited to fight for various liberation movements in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Mexico. It was in Guatemala that he suffered his only combat wound - a shot in the rear. In the Mexican revolution, Dreben joined the forces of Francisco Madero as a machine gunner. After Madero's murder in 1913, Dreben worked for Felix A. Sommerfeld in El Paso, smuggled arms to Pancho Villa's forces, and went on sabotage missions in Mexico for Sommerfeld's secret service. When the latter made his infamous raid on Columbus, New Mexico on March 9, 1916, killing some civilians, Dreben joined the Punitive Expedition sent by an outraged America to bring his former comrade-in-arms to justice. Dreben served as a scout and became good friends with the expedition's commander, General John "Black Jack" Pershing. The Americans were never able to catch the elusive bandit, and the fiasco eventually came to an end in 1917.

Area: Northeast / Ft. Bliss

Source: El Paso County Historical Society

Reference ID: 013-1985-028

Uploaded by: El Paso Museum of History


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