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This paper explores Roger Revelle's activities in oceanography and institution-building during and after the Second World War. In particular, it explores his shift from a wartime acceptance of science serving mission-oriented objectives, to a defence of the distinction between basic and applied science. For Revelle, the Federal government, and especially the military, became the guarantor of basic research in oceanography. This understanding led him to privilege military sponsorship over contract research, and the physical over the biological sciences. He drew upon that understanding to construct a unique institutional geography for science in southern California.