(1878 - 1925)
World War I hero Sergeant Sam Dreben was not only
acclaimed by the men he fought with, but also by the
American people at home. His heroics touched many
people, including the writer and poet, Damon Runyon,
who expressed his feelings in a now-famous poem,
"The Fighting Jew."
In this poem, Runyon wrote that whenever he read about
prejudices against the Jews and of racial hatred, he was reminded of the
heroic fighting Jew, Sam Dreben. He was also reminded of the
Distinguished Service Cross, the Croix de Guerre, the Militare and other
medals that were awarded to Sergeant Dreben. Runyon ended his poem
... THANK GOD ALMIGHTY, WE WILL ALWAYS
HAVE A FEW, LIKE DREBEN A JEW
Sam Dreben was a refugee from Czarist Russia, where the pogroms
taught him how to face his enemies and how to fight back. He had a
hard task of adjusting to life in America and worked at many jobs. He
finally found a career that he liked when he enlisted in the Army. He
saw action in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine insurrection,
and later in the Boxer Rebellion in China.
Dreben fought under General "Black Jack" Pershing when
President Wilson sent them across the Mexican border to capture Pancho
Villa. In later years, General Pershing had a high regard for Dreben
because of his service in this campaign.
Dreben returned to civilian life after the Mexican campaign, but it
didn't last long as America became involved in World War I. He
enlisted once again and was one of the first of the Yankee troops to land
in France and to go into battle against the Germans.
It was at St. Etienne that Dreben distinguished himself. A German
machine gun had been keeping the American troops from getting out
of the trenches and advancing. The American artillery was unsuccessful
in trying to destroy this machine gun nest. Dreben observed the
situation for a few days and then decided to make his move to destroy
the machine gun nest. He zigzagged his way alone to the enemy post,
where he killed 23 of the 40 Germans there. He received the
Distinguished Service Cross for his heroism.
Sam Dreben was one of the many Jewish immigrants who served in
the American Army and fought overseas against the Germans. He was
one of the many Jews who received recognition for their heroism in
World War I. He and the other Jewish soldiers were part of the legacy
that Jews serve and fight for their country in a crisis.
Sources: This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism
included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996,
written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated
by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime
Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.