President Donald Trump wrote in a tweet late May 29 that he was not informed about anything to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during his trip to Japan.
The tweet came shortly after the Wall Street Journal said that the White House had wanted the U.S. Navy to move the ship, named for the late Arizona senator John McCain, “out of sight,” during Trump’s recent trip to Japan.
“I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan,” Trump wrote. “Nevertheless, @FLOTUS and I loved being with our great Military Men and Women—what a spectacular job they do!”
I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan. Nevertheless, @FLOTUS and I loved being with our great Military Men and Women – what a spectacular job they do!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2019
The WSJ cited an email from a U.S. Indo-Pacific Command official to U.S. Navy and Air Force officials, which reportedly had a number of directives revolving around Trump’s arrival in Japan over the Memorial Day weekend.
The email, obtained by the WSJ, had reportedly included directions on where to land helicopters and how to prepare for the USS Wasp, the ship on which Trump would deliver a speech.
The email also had another directive, which was “USS John McCain needs to be out of sight,” and asking officials to “please confirm” that the directive “will be satisfied.”
According to the WSJ, a Navy commander had initially expressed surprise about the directive. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command official replied, “First I heard of it as well,” and said he would work with the White House Military Office to find out more about the order, the WSJ reported.
Three U.S. officials confirmed the existence of the email to The Associated Press. All three had spoken on condition of anonymity, saying that they were not authorized to discuss private email correspondence.
The WSJ reported that a tarpaulin was hung over the ship’s name ahead of Trump’s trip and that sailors were directed to remove coverings from the destroyer that bore its name. It also said sailors assigned to the ship, who generally wear caps bearing its name, were given the day off during Trump’s visit to the nearby USS Wasp.
However, a U.S. official said sailors on the ship were given the day off because of Memorial Day, Reuters reported.
Commander Clay Doss, a spokesman for the Navy’s Seventh Fleet, told AP that the tarp was on the ship on May 24 but was removed by early May 25, the day Trump arrived. “All ships remained in normal configuration during the President’s visit,” he said.
Reuters reported that a U.S. official had confirmed that an initial request had been made to keep the ship out of sight during Trump’s speech, however, the directive was later scrapped by senior Navy officials.
Defense Secretary Shanahan Also Unaware
Lieutenant Colonel Joe Buccino, a Pentagon spokesman, said U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan was not aware of the directive.
“Secretary Shanahan was not aware of the directive to move the USS John S. McCain nor was he aware of the concern precipitating the directive,” Buccino said.
Shanahan said he heard about it early on May 23.
“When I read about it this morning, it was the first I heard about it,” Shanahan told AP in Jakarta after a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart on early May 30.
Asked if he would do an investigation, he said, “I need to find out a little bit more—just had the first glimpse of it this morning,” according to AP.
John McCain was a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who served as a U.S. senator in Arizona for more than three decades.
During the Vietnam War, McCain was shot down and tortured as a prisoner of war by North Vietnamese communist captors for more than five years.
He died at the age of 81 in August 2018.
The USS John S. McCain is named for the late senator and his father and grandfather, who were both Navy admirals. The destroyer was involved in a 2017 collision that killed 10 crew members and is currently undergoing repairs.