One Salvadoran soldier relied on his pocketknife to survive in Najaf, Iraq. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
In 2012, knife manufacturer Condor named a new tactical switchblade after Cpl. Samuel Toloza, one of 380 El Salvadorans who fought in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Corporal Toloza was part of a small force of Central Americans in Najaf, Iraq in 2004. The El Salvadoran force made their way from their main base to an outpost of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps where they suddenly found themselves surrounded by elements of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army .
Toloza’s unit was caught by surprise when the insurgents attacked. The “El Sals” withheld using their heavier guns for fear of inflicting civilian casualties, but sniper fire and RPGs were taking its toll on the small force.
They fought the Mahdi Army for hours but soon ran out of ammunition. With one dead and twelve wounded, the four remaining Central Americans tried desperately to hold on.
“I thought, `This is the end.’ But at the same time, I asked the Lord to protect and save me,” Toloza told reporter Denis Gray in 2004.
They moved the wounded to their truck and tried to get back to their main base. That’s when insurgents tried to kidnap one of Toloza’s wounded comrades. Bad move.
The young corporal said a prayer and pulled a 3-inch pocket switchblade, his last weapon, on the attackers. Toloza stabbed anyone who came near his friends, no matter what weapons they carried. Horrified and completely surprised by the ferocity of an El Salvadoran on a stabbing rampage, the insurgent fighters backed off.
“We never considered surrender. I was trained to fight until the end,” the then-25-year-old Toloza told the Washington Times.
Toloza was able to keep knifing the insurgent fighters long enough for an American relief column to arrive. When the Americans saw how Toloza managed to save his entire unit, they awarded him the Bronze Star for valor.
Toloza had just picked up the switchblade at a quick PX stop before heading out, the BBC World Service reported. It cost him a dollar. Salvadoran media dubbed him “El Rambo Salvadororeño.”
For the records, Condor’s 6-inch “Toloza” model is 3 inches longer than the actual switchblade Cpl. Toloza used to save his entire unit from annihilation.
This article was originally published by We Are The Mighty. Read more by We Are The Mighty here.
Read Next: The Special Ops Dog Handler Who Ran Through Hell to Save Dog
Mac Caltrider is a senior staff writer for Coffee or Die Magazine. He served in the US Marine Corps and is a former police officer. Caltrider earned his bachelor’s degree in history and now reads anything he can get his hands on. He is also the creator of Pipes & Pages, a site intended to increase readership among enlisted troops. Caltrider spends most of his time reading, writing, and waging a one-man war against premature hair loss.
Fort Bragg shed its Confederate namesake Friday to become Fort Liberty in a ceremony some veterans s...
It’s less than two weeks until Father’s Day, and last-minute gifts for Dad are harder to come by tha...
The Air Force announced the permanent location for many more U.S. Space Force units Wednesday — and ...
Who exactly was Gen. Curtis LeMay? And how did he become the commander who razed more than 60 Japanese cities during World War II?
President Joe Biden has nominated a highly decorated Marine officer who has been involved in the transformation of the force to be the next Marine Corps commandant.
When the USS Arizona sank, it took 1,177 crew members with it. Today it remains beneath the water as a memorial to all those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.
A pair of U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flew low over Sarajevo and several other Bosnian cities...
Lockheed Martin’s SR-71 Blackbird was a government secret for years. Now retired, a newer version plans to take its place.