Houthis Launch Online Campaign Against US Navy Aircraft Carrier

Despite repeated false claims by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, one of the oldest aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy, remains operational and actively engaged in the Red Sea.

The Houthis and their supporters online have repeatedly asserted that they have struck or even sunk the carrier. These claims have prompted Captain Christopher “Chowdah” Hill, the carrier’s leader, to engage in a unique form of information warfare on social media.

Hill, in response to these claims, has embraced social media as a way to maintain morale among the nearly 5,000 personnel aboard the Eisenhower. “I think it’s been about two or three times in the past six months we’ve allegedly been sunk, which we have not been,” Hill told The Associated Press. “It is almost comical at this point. They’re attempting to maybe inspire themselves through misinformation, but it doesn’t work on us.”

To counter the Houthi claims, the Navy invited two AP journalists and others to visit the Eisenhower. The journalists were able to tour the 1,092-foot long ship and observe its operations.

Besides some rust and a leaky pipe in the dining room, the ship appeared undamaged. The flight deck showed no signs of blasts or holes, but the scent of jet fuel, oily water, and the roar of engines were a constant presence.

Captain Hill has also actively used social media to counter the Houthi claims. He has regularly posted messages showcasing the positive aspects of life on board the carrier, including videos of flight operations, images of sailors enjoying cookies, and updates on the ship’s activities.

One memorable instance involved Hill posting images of cinnamon rolls and muffins after the Houthis claimed to have sunk the Eisenhower. “The whole intent of the social media outreach was to connect with families, to bring them closer to the ship,” Hill said. “So if I can post pictures of sons and daughters, husbands and wives out here, or even fathers and mothers, get it out there, it just kind of brings the family closer to us. And again, that’s our support network. But it also took on another role because everyone else was watching to see what we’re doing.”

Hill’s social media strategy also includes “Star Wars” memes, images of the ship’s support animal, Captain Demo, and a regular celebration of “Taco Tuesday.” “We’re going to celebrate ‘Taco Tuesdays’ because it’s my absolute favorite day of the week. That will never end,” the captain said. “If you call that an information warfare campaign, you can. It’s just who I am, you know, at the end of the day.”

Despite these efforts, morale remains a significant concern for Hill and the other leaders on board. The Eisenhower has only had one brief port call in Greece during its eight-month deployment. Furthermore, the carrier has been the most deployed in the U.S. fleet over the last five years, according to the U.S. Naval Institute’s news service.

One sailor, Lt. Joseph Hirl, wears a patch that reads, “Go Navy, Beat Houthis,” which acknowledges the serious nature of the ongoing conflict. “It’s pretty much the day-in, day-out stress of knowing that we are being shot at definitely gives a realism to the whole experience that this is not a normal deployment,” Hirl said.

Another concern is the expenditure of munitions. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Navy had spent at least $1 billion on armaments in the Red Sea. Leaders on the Eisenhower acknowledge the importance of utilizing the appropriate weapons against the Houthis, who employ inexpensive munitions in their asymmetric warfare.

“My sailors, my ships are priceless — that’s not a calculus I want a captain to have,” said Capt. David Wroe, the commodore overseeing the guided missile destroyers escorting the Eisenhower. “Now, using the appropriate effect weapon system on the appropriate threat to preserve magazine depth, to have more missiles, is certainly a germane tactical question.”

The Eisenhower, accompanied by the USS Philippine Sea, a cruiser, and two destroyers, the USS Gravely and the USS Mason, continues its patrol. The deployment has been extended twice, and there is a possibility of further extensions. However, Hill remains confident in his sailors’ preparedness and his leadership style.

“I came to a revelation at some point in my career that, one of the things that all humans require is to be loved and valued,” Hill said. “So I shouldn’t be afraid, as a leader, to try to love and value everybody, and also to expect other leaders that I’m responsible for to love and value their sailors.”