May 30 (UPI) -- Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said his chief of staff is investigating reports that the White House ordered the USS John McCain be hidden or obscured from view during President Donald Trump's visit to Japan.
The guided missile destroyer is undergoing repairs after colliding with another ship in 2017 so it wasn't possible to move the ship. Instead, a tarp was hung over the ship's name and a barge was moved in front of the ship to obscure the ship's name after the tarp was removed. Also, sailors who typically wear caps with the ship's name were given the day off.
Shanahan said he never gave such an order.
"I never authorized, I never approved any action around the movement or activity regarding that ship," Shanahan said. "I would never dishonor the memory of a great American patriot like Sen. John McCain."
He said he would never disrespect the ship's crew and the job they do. He said the military "needs to do their job" and stay out of politics.
Trump also reacted on Twitter.
"I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan," Trump said. "Nevertheless, @FLOTUS and I loved being with our great Military Men and Women -- what a spectacular job they do!"
Trump told the media at the White House on Thursday that he wouldn't have done that but whoever did it was "well meaning."
On Wednesday night, the Navy Chief of Information Twitter account reactivated after a five-year hiatus to say that "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."
The controversy started with a Wall Street Journal article that cited emails saying the "USS John McCain needs to be out of sight" when Trump visits Yokosuka on Memorial Day.
Trump and McCain were at odds for 20 years over McCain's war record and his stand to preserve the Affordable Care Act. McCain ran for president in 2008.
Trump referenced the former prisoner of war and U.S. senator in a speech in April, months after McCain died. He said McCain "did the nation a tremendous disservice" by not voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
McCain's daughter Meghan McCain tweeted that Trump won't let her father rest in peace. The ship is actually named after McCain's father, Adm. John S. McCain, a former U.S. Pacific Command commander, and his grandfather of the same name, a World War II carrier task force commander.