After serving in the Battle of the Bulge, in which 19,000 of his fellow Americans were killed, he had a hardened attitude: “I’m not afraid of death. Death is a part of life.”
Question: Describe your outlook while serving in WWII?
Ed Koch: Well, I don't know if it was there that I decided that even if I was going to die, and obviously I didn't, I'm not afraid of death. Death is a part of life. Most people I have met, particularly Americans, just are so afraid of death. I don't look forward to it. At 85, I know it's just a few years away, but I don't fear it. I believe in the after-life, I believe in reward and punishment; and I hope I'll be rewarded.
I think some of all of that comes from having served in the war. And I think serving in a war and seeing people die also impacts on how you think about other wars. So, I believe that this country has to be defended and there are just wars and certainly World War II was such a just war, but the Vietnam War was not. And I thought that we shouldn't be in it and I marched in various demonstrations against it. I believed it was wrong and ultimately a huge majority of people in this country thought it was wrong, and they stopped it with their marches.
Question: How did you feel when you were first drafted into the war?
Ed Koch: Well, I think like most soldiers at the time, I served in the European theater of operations and I served in two campaigns, one for Northern France and the other for the Rhineland and I fought in Holland, Belgium and Germany. I saw people killed, I was very frightened and often thought I would probably die in Europe on the battlefield somewhere. But I didn't. I came out alive and I as discharged as a Sergeant and I think that being in a war has an effect on your character and your outlook on life. I don't recommend it, there are certainly other ways to build character, but it's part of who you are and what you are.