Since the Great War of 1914-1918 the relationship between naval officers and ocean scientists in the United States has illustrated well the unpredictable effect of cultural barriers on constructive professional dialogues. The customs and practices attending an academic or industrial laboratory differ dramatically from those absorbed by midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy or officers on board combat ships. Each group lives in a nearly discreet, culturally constructed world. During the course of this century the communication and understanding necessary for these communities to work together toward a common goal required social and political insight as well as extensive entrepreneurship and careful cultural translation.
Confronting a poverty of resources after World War One the Navy and the civilian oceanographic community formed a common practice to pool both resources and skill in an effort to perform meaningful ocean research. When the possibility of another war loomed large in the 1930s, they turned to determined cultural translators. The latter, drawn from both communities, converted the primitive common practice and considerable cultural obstacles of the interwar period into a fluid wartime professional dialogue. Fortified by success in World War II, key translators brought the dialogue to maturity after 1945.