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Why Did NORAD Start Tracking Santa?
MentalFloss ^ | 12-24-2012 | Matt Soniak

Posted on 12/24/2012 5:43:19 PM PST by smoothsailing

December 24, 2012

Why Did NORAD Start Tracking Santa?

Matt Soniak

On December 24, 1955, the red telephone at the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado began ringing.

The red phone meant it was either the Pentagon or CONAD commander in chief General Earle Partridge on the other end, and their reason for calling would probably not be pleasant.

U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, director of operations at the center, rushed over to the phone and grabbed it.

“Yes Sir, this is Colonel Shoup,” he barked.

Nothing but silence in response.

“Sir?” This is Colonel Shoup,” he said.

Silence again.

“Sir? Can you read me alright?”

Finally, a soft voice on the other end.

“Are you really Santa Claus?” a little girl asked.

Shoup was stunned for a second. This must be a joke, he thought. He looked around the room, expecting to see his men laughing at their prank, but found stony, serious faces all around.

He realized that there was “some screwup on the phones,” and decided to play along.

“Yes, I am,” he answered. “Have you been a good little girl?”

The girl explained to Shoup that she would leave some food out for both Santa and his reindeer and then recited her Christmas list to him. Shoup thanked her for her hospitality, noting that Santa had a lot of traveling to do. How did he get to all those houses in one night, anyway, she asked.

Apparently, that was classified intelligence in Shoup’s mind. “That’s the magic of Christmas,” he said. If anyone asks her about that, he said, she should tell them to stop asking so many questions or Santa would put them on the naughty list.

“That red phone, boy,” Shoup later recalled. “That’s either the old man—the four star [General Partridge]—or the Pentagon. I was all shook up.”

The red phone would keep ringing throughout the night. Not because of Soviet nukes or fighter planes heading toward U.S. soil, but because of a typo.

That day, Shoup would later learn, a local newspaper ran a Sears Roebuck ad inviting kids to contact Santa.

“Hey Kiddies!” the ad read. “Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night.” The ad listed Santa’s direct line, but the number in the copy was off by a digit. Instead of connecting to the special line Sears set up with a Santa impersonator, kids wound up calling a secret air defense emergency number.

After a few more Santa-related calls, Shoup pulled a few airmen aside and gave them a special assignment. They would answer the phone and give callers—barring the Pentagon, we assume—Santa’s current location as they “tracked” him on their radar.

From that night on, tracking Santa became a yearly tradition, carried on by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) when it replaced CONAD in 1958. A new phone number, separate from the red phone, was established and publicized, and people were invited to call in and find out how close Santa was to their home. Every Christmas Eve, military service members staff phones and email accounts and the Santa Tracker twitter to keep kids up to date on Santa’s whereabouts.

Harry Shoup passed away in 2009, remembered by his peers and the public as the “Santa Colonel” who gave a special gift to millions of kids.


TOPICS: History; Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS: merrychristmas; norad; santa; usaf
OFFICIAL NORAD SANTA TRACKER WEBSITE

1 posted on 12/24/2012 5:43:26 PM PST by smoothsailing
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To: smoothsailing

Because the government needs more excuses to waste time and time is money...


2 posted on 12/24/2012 5:59:19 PM PST by GraceG
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To: smoothsailing

I have been working on this tracker this year ;-)


3 posted on 12/24/2012 6:02:16 PM PST by for-q-clinton (If at first you don't succeed keep on sucking until you do succeed)
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To: smoothsailing

Because TV weathermen had nothing to do......


4 posted on 12/24/2012 6:03:38 PM PST by Bryan24 (When in doubt, move to the right..........)
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To: smoothsailing
Why Did NORAD Start Tracking Santa?

That's the story the govt. puts out but NORAD had nothing to do with it in the beginning.......it was the CIA.

5 posted on 12/24/2012 6:06:54 PM PST by Hot Tabasco (Jab her with a harpoon.....)
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To: smoothsailing

... sigh ... Sometimes the funniest things make you ‘get a little something in your eye’.

Gosh, that’s a heartwarming story. Thanks so much for posting it, Smooth.

Merry Christmas!


6 posted on 12/24/2012 6:11:35 PM PST by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
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To: smoothsailing
Why Did NORAD Start Tracking Santa?

That's the story the govt. puts out but NORAD had nothing to do with it in the beginning.......it was the CIA.

7 posted on 12/24/2012 6:20:52 PM PST by Hot Tabasco (Jab her with a harpoon.....)
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To: Windflier

8 posted on 12/24/2012 6:38:20 PM PST by smoothsailing
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To: Windflier; smoothsailing

I’d be a little more appreciative of these stories if the flying caribou didn’t leave mounds of poop on my lawn this time every year. Prolly the long Atlantic flight, but that’s really not a good enough excuse IMHO.

Anyway, Merry Christmas!


9 posted on 12/24/2012 6:39:53 PM PST by Gene Eric (Demoralization is a weapon of the enemy. Don't get it, don't spread it!)
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To: smoothsailing

Because he’s a white male?


10 posted on 12/24/2012 6:44:03 PM PST by heights
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To: heights

+1


11 posted on 12/24/2012 6:44:54 PM PST by CatherineofAragon (Support Christian white males---the architects of the jewel known as Western Civilization)
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To: for-q-clinton

12 posted on 12/24/2012 6:48:55 PM PST by smoothsailing
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To: heights

...and therefore a pedophile.


13 posted on 12/24/2012 6:54:30 PM PST by null and void (Going Galt: The won't of the people)
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To: Gene Eric

14 posted on 12/24/2012 6:55:55 PM PST by smoothsailing
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To: smoothsailing

LOL, that’s great — thanks!


15 posted on 12/24/2012 7:09:47 PM PST by Gene Eric (Demoralization is a weapon of the enemy. Don't get it, don't spread it!)
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To: handy old one

Ping-le Bells...


16 posted on 12/24/2012 8:09:30 PM PST by Hegemony Cricket (The emperor < still > has no pedigree.)
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To: smoothsailing

I remember the first time I heard NORAD tracking something coming over the poles.

We had just gone through the Cuban Missile Crisis and were really on edge.

That Christmas eve there was a sudden break into programing to inform us NORAD had spotted something coming in over the pole!

We all gathered around the screen expecting it to be Russian missiles! Butts puckered! Would we all be here tomorrow? Sweat ran down the brow in the cold weather!

Then they showed a poor photo of a Santa sleigh with fake clouds rolling by.

We were relieved and po’d because we had had enough stress that year! Why compound it!


17 posted on 12/24/2012 8:38:32 PM PST by Ruy Dias de Bivar (REOPEN THE CLOSED MENTAL INSTITUTIONS! Damn the ACLU!)
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To: GraceG
Because the government needs more excuses to waste time and time is money...

It shows the human side of our military. Even though I'm a fiscal conservative, I don't have a problem with this. While I was still serving we used to utilize some of our training missions for Operation Santa Claus. We would take thousands of pounds of toys and clothing to remote Alaska villages that had very little. We also brought Santa and Mrs Claus to hand everything out. I was always eager to go on those missions because they brought a lot of joy to a lot of children.

18 posted on 12/24/2012 8:40:09 PM PST by AlaskaErik (I served and protected my country for 31 years. Progressives spent that time trying to destroy it.)
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To: AlaskaErik

In actuality, this costs very little. Most of the costs are borne by sponsors like Microsoft and such. The people who answer the phones are all volunteers.

I have no problem with this at all.


19 posted on 12/24/2012 8:44:51 PM PST by hoagy62 ("Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered..."-Thomas Paine. 1776)
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To: Gene Eric
I’d be a little more appreciative of these stories if the flying caribou didn’t leave mounds of poop on my lawn this time every year. Prolly the long Atlantic flight, but that’s really not a good enough excuse IMHO.

LOL. What's worse is when that fat guy in the red suit breaks into your house and leaves the cookies, but drinks up your best Scotch!

Pisses me off, but I can't ever say anything to the little bugger because he always leaves gifts for the kids, the sneak!

20 posted on 12/24/2012 9:27:54 PM PST by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
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To: smoothsailing

Now, that’s what I call Christmas spirit! Thank you!


21 posted on 12/24/2012 9:29:20 PM PST by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
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To: Windflier

>> but drinks up your best Scotch!

Kinda’ crossing the line with the Scotch. LOL!


22 posted on 12/24/2012 9:45:16 PM PST by Gene Eric (Demoralization is a weapon of the enemy. Don't get it, don't spread it!)
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To: AlaskaErik
Don't you think NORAD, the USAF, and the RCAF get millions of dollars worth of free positive PR on account of this?

It is a cheap reminder to people that NORAD and the air forces do track and escort objects in and near North American airspace. There is a reason for their existence.

23 posted on 12/25/2012 5:34:48 AM PST by Former Proud Canadian (Obamanomics-We don't need your stinking tar sands oil, we'll just grow algae.)
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To: GraceG
Because the government needs more excuses to waste time and time is money...

You mean like Toys for Tots? Yeah, that's a real waste of our resources!


24 posted on 12/25/2012 5:40:31 AM PST by COBOL2Java (kak-is-toc-ra-cy: Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens. See: GOP-e)
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To: COBOL2Java

Dammit cratchet you use a piece of coal last week....


25 posted on 12/25/2012 7:26:43 AM PST by GraceG
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To: Gene Eric
Kinda’ crossing the line with the Scotch. LOL!

Well, truth be told, ya really gotta leave a little nip out for the old guy :-)

26 posted on 12/25/2012 9:22:06 AM PST by Windflier (To anger a conservative, tell him a lie. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.)
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To: smoothsailing

Why Did NORAD Start Tracking Santa? >>

I don’t know, probably they wanted santa to stop on by and deliver some presents maybe some good weather predicting instruments so they can actually do their jobs properly.


27 posted on 12/25/2012 5:20:04 PM PST by Coleus
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To: GraceG

Being in the Air Defense Command at that time the thought never crossed our mind that we were wasting either time or money. It was great publicity for the services we provided to the nation, namely protection from unfriendly aircraft entering our airspace with unfriendly purposes. We were going to be there anyway, because we never closed. We were truly open 24/7. Personally, I found it very enjoyable from 1956 until 1968, and I never collected an overtime check for it.


28 posted on 12/25/2013 8:23:10 AM PST by billhilly (Has Pelosi read it yet?)
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