President Donald Trump was in Japan on a state visit this week. While there, he did the usual Japan stuff—hit up a sumo tournament, pal around with a dictator, see the troops at a U.S. Navy base, etc.. All of it normal, these days. But while visiting the troops, his staff was apparently worried he’d be triggered by seeing a Navy destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, so they ordered it covered up.
No, seriously. No one’s making this up, and the Wall Street Journal has the receipts, in the form of emails and photos that recounted the sordid tale:
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.
Trump feuded with both the late Sen. John McCain and his family, dating back to when Trump, a draft dodger, attempted to mock McCain for being tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Before McCain’s death last year, the prominent Republican and former presidential candidate was a high-profile critic of Trump.
The efforts to hide the McCain, a 505-foot weighing 8,900 tons full and normally carrying a crew of 281, bordered on the absurd. The Navy tried everything from covering up the name of the ship with a tarp to just hiding the thing behind a barge, the WSJ reported.
Sailors attached to the ship were even given the day off when Trump was there, as they tend to wear hats with the big words “USS John McCain” emblazoned on them.
Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan—himself previously a career Boeing employee—was personally aware of the orders to hide the John McCain and approved them, the WSJ reported.
The McCain is undergoing repairs at the Yokosuka Naval Base, where Trump delivered a speech to troops aboard the USS Wasp, which is also docked there. The McCain suffered extensive damage in a collision with a cargo ship back in 2017 in which 10 sailors were killed, and is still in the process of being brought back to regular duty.
Oddly enough, the USS John S. McCain wasn’t originally named after the senator (full name John Sidney McCain III) that Trump hates, but rather his father and grandfather. The ship, which was commissioned in 1994, is the second Navy ship to bear the name John McCain, and it named after the senator’s grandfather and father, respectively. The ship was re-dedicated in 2018, so that its name also honored the late senator as well, now bearing the name of three John McCains.
John McCain, Sr., and John McCain, Jr., were the first father-son duo to become four-star admirals in U.S. Navy history. McCain, Sr. was famous for leading naval operations off the Philippines and air assaults against the Japanese home islands in World War II, and McCain Jr. was most notable as commander-in-chief of all American forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1972.
Updated: Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 9:47 PM ET: The president made the following statement regarding the matter on Twitter.
Update Thursday May 30, 7:30 a.m.: Pentagon and White House officials confirmed to the Washington Post last night that the Navy was asked by the White House to obscure the McCain. Three U.S. officials also told the AP the same thing, as you can read over at Fox News.
At the same time, a verified Twitter account apparently for the Navy Chief of Information that’s been dormant for five years was reactivated to deny the accounts:
Update Thursday May 30, 9:45 a.m.: Trump himself has now confirmed the story is true, and that his staff was afraid that seeing the name “John McCain” would hurt his widdle feewings:
More on this as we get it.