An order to have the destroyer USS John S McCain hidden from view during President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Japan was “not an unreasonable thing to ask”, the president’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said on 02 June. Mulvaney made the startling claim even as it was reported that the Pentagon has told the White House to stop politicising the military.
The USS John S McCain is named for the former Senator John S McCain’s grandfather and father, both prominent US Navy admirals. The senator was himself a navy veteran and prisoner of war in Vietnam.
The US Navy has confirmed reports about an internal email that said the White House military office wanted the USS John McCain kept “out of sight” when Trump was in Japan. The email was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
McCain died last year at 81, from brain cancer. The 2008 Republican presidential nominee remained fiercely at odds with Trump over McCain’s military service in Vietnam and Trump’s absence from that war, and over political matters. Since McCain’s death, Trump has continued his attacks.
Trump said this week he knew nothing about the request to hide the ship. But he also said: “Somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him, OK? And they were well-meaning, I will say.”
Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters he was told that, despite the White House request, the navy did not move the USS John McCain and that a barge in front of it was moved before Trump arrived to visit the USS Wasp. He said a tarpaulin that had been draped over the ship’s name was removed, having been put there for maintenance reasons only.
The many media reports on this incident range in levels of outrage as to what actually occurred and, although the Pentagon reprimanded the White House for politicising the navy, the incident pointed to disrespect for a fighting service by someone on the personal staff of its commander-in-chief. How would an ADF member react to a direction compromising the respect and status of his or her unit? Under today’s ADF values would this responsibility devolve on all ranks?