November 20, 2019
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Garnet Hall of Famer Rolf Valtin ’48 Reflects on College, U.S. Army Experiences

– [Interviewer] So is there
anything you would like to say to the Swarthmore community,
as well as maybe your Hall of Fame class right now, who
are gonna be watching this? – Yeah, what I want to
say is what I always tell, that I am immensely
grateful to the college and the influence it had on my life. First, my wife. Secondly, the sports, but beyond that, professionally the college
had everything to do with my career. And all of that led to
what I really wanted to do, which was to be a neutral in
labor relations and be active in the field of collective bargaining. As a mediator, as an arbitrator,
which is what I ended up doing, I only a few
days ago actually retired, I had my last case just a couple days ago. (chuckle) But Swarthmore had
everything to do with it, and I’m back to the thought I
will always be very grateful to the college. – [Interviewer] If you could
talk a little bit about the name change, and – – The story is actually
pretty simple, number one Weinermesa is a pretty awkward
name, it’s not hard to want to shed it. (group laughter) But… – [Nancy] I still like it, actually. – Yes, my wife used to hate
it and especially our children are elated, they like it over that. (laughter) But additionally, it was
my older brother who really exercised the initiative on it. He and I were both trained
to do intelligence work by virtue of our knowledge of German, so we were clearly headed
for the European field of operations, not the Pacific. And, our father was
still a German citizen, and the thought of being
captured with this name of ours, which might have made it
uncomfortable for him, led to the decision,
let’s change our name. And it is the last name,
maiden name of our mother with a couple letters deleted. Valentine became Valtin, and here we are. Yes, I did basic training
and then the Army was smart enough to discover that it
had among its various soldiers people who knew the German language, and then led going to the
military intelligence school, Camp Ritchie. – [Interviewer] Near here? – It’s near Camp David in Maryland. And that, so I had my
training there, I was shipped overseas, I was in a pool
of interrogators in Northern Ireland and there was
interviewed by a team from the 16th Infantry Regiment of
the 1st Infantry division. They wanted to sign up a
person to act as interrogator, and that was in March or April of 1944. And turned out that the 16th
Regiment was the lead Regiment at Omaha Beach in Normandy. Our sector was a particularly bloody one, you can’t help but have that
deeply ingrained in your mind, I was there, I saw it, all the misery, all of the casualties. Some of the other, there were
five beaches in the Normandy invasion, and ours for a number
of reasons which we won’t go into now had the toughest
resistance from the Germans. So we had the hardest time,
and we had by far the most casualties, we lost about
a third of the regiment, either wounded or killed. And I have a book written by
the German soldier who was up on the embankment looking
down on the beach, manning a machine gun, and he
describes his role that day, and, I mean that’s the way it was, let’s not go into it more. He literally killed hundreds
of people, it’s all there described. It shows the insanity of war. By the fall of ’46 I was back to normal, back to soccer and all the rest of it. – [Interviewer] Had an
all-American season. – Yes. – [Interviewer] You had the
record for gold in the season, it lasted for about 30 years. – Where the hell is the guy that broke it? (group laughter) Swarthmore would not have the
same for me without sports, I was active in every season
and I loved it, I enjoyed it, it gave me some stature that
otherwise I might not have had, but I wouldn’t even want to
put one sport over the other. I had great enjoyment, great
satisfaction whether it was baseball or basketball or soccer. I would say I was a good header, and I had a strong right foot. I was not two-footed, as
real good players have to be, Coach Wagner will confirm,
it’s like in tennis, you’ve got to have a backhand
as well as a forehand. If you want to be really
good, the left foot has to be good as the right. Not normally true of most
players, you will agree. Selection for the olympic
soccer team was a matter of game, game, games which
expanded geographically. We had our first game, I think
it might have been two or three or four colleges into Philadelphia. Haverford, Swarthmore, and
maybe Villanova and Penn, I’ve forgotten. And then you have to make a
cut, next was into Philadelphia professional teams there were two of seven professional teams. And another game, then
Jersey, then New York and then New England, and if you survive the
cuts then in the end, you were part of the Eastern Squad, and then for our final
tryout we had to play the Western Squad. That was in St Louis, then
it ended in a one-one tie. And then came the selections,
by the two coasts. One from the west, one from the east. We had two or three practice games. We did okay against China
and one of the Koreas, I forgot which one. But then we got our rude
awakening in the opening day for the tournament itself
because we got clobbered by Italy, and Italy by
the way won the tournament and won the olympics in 1948. And then we went some our
exhibition games in smaller nations like Norway and Ireland, and we got badly defeated there too. All of it leads to what
you have to recognize, which in all modesty I should say, soccer was not yet a national sport here, it did not draw the top athletes. I honestly do not believe
that nowadays I would make the Olympic team, watching the
Olympic national players play, but that’s the way it was then
and then finally, however, we won one. The state of Israel had just been formed and they sent their soccer
team to various countries, not to satisfy soccer fans,
but to generate some money for this new state. (coughs) And we had a game at Chai Park, and I think about 20,000
people were there, she was among them. (chuckles) And we won, we won four
to one against Israel. That’s the last time the
Olympic team got together. (group chatter) I did score in that game, yes. We won four to one. – [Interviewer] That’s incredible. – It’s not by design,
most of things in life, and somebody had said, most of
our developments are a matter of accident, that’s one of them.

Tony wyaad