Wednesday, May 15, must have been a weird day for the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command official who had to send an email to other officers requesting that the Navy keep the U.S.S. John S. McCain “out of sight” during President Trump’s visit to Japan last week. “Please confirm [it] will be satisfied,” the official wrote, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
The request, which resulted from conversations between the White House Military Office and the Seventh Fleet of the U.S. Navy, went all the way to the desk of acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan, who approved the request, according to a U.S. official who spoke to the Journal. The vessel is named after the late Arizona senator’s father and grandfather, who were both admirals in the Navy.
The reported request might sound easy enough for those not familiar with the dimensions of the Navy destroyer: 505 feet in length and weighing in at around 9,000 tons when fully loaded. To further complicate the historically petty request, the U.S.S. John S. McCain is currently under repair for damages sustained in a 2017 collision, which caused the deaths of ten crewmen. Instead of moving the ship, Navy officials reportedly came up with a low-tech answer:
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.
Upon publication, the Navy denied the Journal’s report, and the president claimed ignorance of the matter. But the boat debacle was the first flare-up in Trump’s posthumous feud with the Arizona senator since March, when Trump told a crowd at a tank-manufacturing plant in Ohio that he gave McCain “the kind of funeral that he wanted,” despite the fact that he was not invited to the service. “I don’t care about this. I didn’t get [a] thank you. That’s okay. We sent him on the way, but I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.” At that point, Trump’s late rival had been dead for almost seven months.