- White House officials requested that the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS John S. McCain be hidden from view during President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan,The Wall Street Journal reported.
- The McCain, along with another destroyer, did not send sailors to attend the president’s Memorial Day address. The sailors were on liberty at the time of the event.
- When several McCain sailors tried to attend the speech anyway, they were turned away, a service member told The New York Times. A Navy official told BI that they were likely sent away because they were not dressed in appropriate attire.
- The president and the acting secretary of defence, Patrick Shanahan, both denied having any knowledge of any directives pertaining to the McCain and its crew,
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Not only did the White House request that the USS John S. McCain be “out of sight” during President Donald Trump’s Memorial Day address to US troops serving in Japan, but the ship’s sailors were reportedly turned away when some tried to attend the event.
Most US warships in the harbour at Yokosuka were invited to send around 60 to 70 sailors to hear the president’s speech, The New York Times reported. The McCain and the USS Stethem, however, did not send sailors to the event, a Navy official told Business Insider, explaining that the crew of the McCain was on 96-hour liberty.
A US service member stationed at the naval base in Yokosuka told the Times that that several McCain sailors who showed up hoping to attend the presidential address were turned away.
A Navy official explained to BI that they were likely sent away because they were not dressed in the proper attire, suggesting that the sailors were wearing command ball caps with the McCain’s insignia rather than the eight-point covers and Type IIIs required of participating commands.
The fuss over the USS John S. McCain started when the he White House sent emails to the Navy before the president’s visit to Japan requesting that the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer – named after several generations of the McCain family, including Trump’s longtime rival Sen. John McCain – be hidden from view, The Wall Street Journal first reported.
There was initially a “lower level effort” to comply with the White House request, ABC News reported. “There were emails between lower-level officers, but once leadership heard about it, they said knock it off,” a senior Navy official told CNN. A Navy official was able to confirm for BI that this was, indeed, the case.
A tarp was seen obscuring the name on the McCain last Friday; however, the tarp was removed Saturday. The tarp was placed there for hull preservation as the ship continues with maintenance, a Navy official told BI without clarifying the tarp’s purpose.
Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan, despite reports to the contrary, “was not aware of the directive to move the USS John S. McCain nor was he aware of the concern precipitating the directive,” Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, a spokesman for the secretary, said in an emailed statement.
Shanahan told reporters Thursday morning he would look into this issue. “I would never dishonor the memory of a great American patriot like Senator McCain,” he explained. “I also think it’s important – I’d never disrespect the young men and women that crew that ship. I’ve asked my chief of staff to look into the matter.”
Trump has denied having any knowledge of any plans to relocate or obscure the McCain.
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
Trump later said he didn’t care whether the McCain was present or not.
“They thought they were doing me a favour because I’m not a fan of John McCain,” Trump told reporters on Thursday, adding, “Certainly I couldn’t care less whether there’s a boat named after his father.” The destroyer is also named after the senator, who died in August, and his grandfather.
When asked specifically about sailors being barred from hearing him speak, Trump said, “I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t involved. I would not have done that. Somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him. And, they were well meaning, I will say. I didn’t know anything about it.”
The Navy has stressed repeatedly that the service did not take any steps to hide the McCain as the White House is said to have requested.
The name of USS John S. McCain was not obscured during the POTUS visit to Yokosuka on Memorial Day. The Navy is proud of that ship, its crew, its namesake and its heritage.
— Navy Chief of Information (@chinfo) May 30, 2019
“All ships remained in normal configuration during the president’s visit,” Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a Pacific Fleet spokesman, told Business Insider.
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