Why NORAD tracks Santa’s journey

Dec. 22, 2017
by Mark Ollig

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, better known as NORAD, will be using its advanced technology to track Santa and his reindeer team as they travel around the world bringing gifts to all the good boys and girls.

For the record, I’ve been a very good boy this year.

The story of NORAD tracking Santa began in 1955, when NORAD was CONAD (Continental Air Defense Command), with its headquarters located in El Paso County, near Colorado Springs, CO.

CONAD’s confidential, air-defense telephone hotline was used for national emergencies; such as alerting CONAD personnel of any imminent military attacks against the US.

A December 1955 Colorado Springs department store newspaper advertisement mistakenly printed the wrong telephone number for children to call and talk with Santa on Christmas Eve.

Yes, the telephone number in the ad was the hotline which rang the red desk phone of the central operations center at CONAD.

Christmas Eve 1955, the red phone began ringing.

The director of operations, Colonel Harry Shoup, immediately picked up the handset.

“The red phone ringing; it’s either the Pentagon calling or the four-star General Partridge. I was all shook up,” Col. Shoup recalled years later while telling the story.

“So, I picked it up and said, Sir, this is Col. Shoup.”

He heard silence from the phone’s receiver.

“Sir, this is Col. Shoup,” he repeated.

“Sir, can you read me alright?” asked Col. Shoup, who believed a military general was calling the hotline telephone.

Imagine Col. Shoup’s surprise when he hears a little girl’s voice ask, “Are you really Santa Claus?”

Col. Shoup recalls looking around the room at the faces of his office personnel and sternly saying, “Somebody’s playing a joke on me, and this isn’t funny!”

“Would you repeat that?” demanded Col. Shoup into the phone, believing it was some prankster randomly dialing telephone numbers.

“Are you really Santa Claus?” the small voice on the other end of the telephone line sincerely asked.

While Col. Shoup was on the phone, he learned of the local newspaper’s advertisement mistake.

Upon hearing this, Col. Shoup’s behavior quickly changed.

Instead of disappointing the little girl calling for Santa, he decided to answer her as Santa would, asking, “Have you been a good little girl?”

The now happy little girl’s voice on the phone said she knew Santa would be coming down the fireplace at her house, and she would be leaving some food there for him and the reindeer.

“Oh, boy! They sure will appreciate that!” Col. Shoup told her.

Col. Shoup listened as the little girl read off the items on her Christmas list she hoped Santa would bring her.

He then asked to talk with her mother so that he could inform her of the items on her daughter’s Christmas list.

After saying goodbye to the little girl and replacing the handset back on the red phone, Col. Shoup instructed his defense operations center to act as Santa’s helpers whenever a child called the hotline.

Children calling were provided radar updates by CONAD defense operation team members regarding the location of Santa Claus, and his globe-circling reindeer sleigh team.

Santa’s sleigh travels faster than starlight, “but this is nothing that our technologies can’t handle,” a commander at CONAD reportedly said.

In recent years, because of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s brightly-shining red nose, NORAD can easily track the speed, direction, and location of Santa’s sleigh as it journeys through the sky.

NORAD monitors Santa’s trip with the same advanced space satellite technology used for following any airborne object approaching the Northern Hemisphere.

Santa Claus was issued an official clearance to fly throughout the skies inside the Northern Hemisphere.

Christmas Eve, NORAD will be using its classified radar tracking command station to monitor Santa and his reindeer sleigh team, as they make their journey around the world.

Follow the official NORAD Tracks Santa website at https://www.noradsanta.org. There, you’ll find the Santa Tracker Countdown clock, videos of Santa’s North Pole headquarters, interactive games, movies, a library, holiday musical tunes, and the history of NORAD’s involvement in Santa’s annual holiday journey.

Visit the official NORAD Tracks Santa YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/2CFjsd0.

Follow the official Twitter page of NORAD Tracks Santa for up-to-the-minute information on Santa’s journey using @NoradSanta.

Col. Harry Shoup became known as “The Santa Colonel,” a nickname he cherished until his passing March 14, 2009.

A special "Merry Christmas" to my mother, family, friends, and those of you who read my column.

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