The White House wanted the U.S. Navy to move “out of sight” a warship named for the late Sen. John McCain—a war hero who became a frequent target of President Trump’s ire—and his father and grandfather ahead of the president’s visit to Japan last week, according to an email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
In a May 15 email to U.S. Navy and Air Force officials, a U.S. Indo-Pacific Command official outlined plans for the president’s arrival that he said had resulted from conversations between the White House Military Office and the Seventh Fleet of the U.S. Navy. In addition to instructions for the proper landing areas for helicopters and preparation for the USS Wasp—where the president was scheduled to speak—the official issued a third directive: “USS John McCain needs to be out of sight.”
“Please confirm #3 will be satisfied,” the official wrote.
When a Navy commander expressed surprise about the directive for the USS John S. McCain, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command official replied: “First I heard of it as well.” He said he would work with the White House Military Office to obtain more information about the order.
Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan was aware of the concern about the presence of the USS John McCain in Japan and approved measures to ensure it didn’t interfere with the president’s visit, a U.S. official said.
There were discussions within the U.S. military over the past week about how to handle the warship, another U.S. official said. The ship is being repaired after a 2017 collision, and any ship undergoing such repair or maintenance would be difficult to move, officials said. A tarp was hung over the ship’s name ahead of the president’s trip, according to photos reviewed by the Journal, and sailors were directed to remove any coverings from the ship that bore its name.
After the tarp was taken down, a barge was moved closer to the ship, obscuring its name. Navy officials acknowledge the barge was moved but said it was not moved to obscure the name of the ship. Sailors on the ship, who typically wear caps bearing its name, were given the day off during Mr. Trump’s visit, people familiar with the matter said.
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
Mr. Trump arrived in Japan on Saturday and on Tuesday—though still Monday in the U.S.—delivered Memorial Day remarks to troops aboard the USS Wasp, which is stationed along with the USS John McCain at Yokosuka Naval Base, south of Tokyo. Speaking to around 800 military men and women—some of whom wore “Make Aircrew Great Again” patches with a likeness of the president on their jumpsuits—Mr. Trump said he was joined by sailors from six other ships. He made no mention of the USS John McCain.
In July 2018, a month before Mr. McCain’s death, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer formally added Mr. McCain as a namesake of the USS John McCain, which had been named for his father and grandfather after it launched in 1994. Mr. McCain said at the time that he was “deeply honored.”
Source: Wall Street Journal