What Caused The U.S. Military To Start Tracking Santa Claus?
Answer: A Sears Advertisement
NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) is a joint operation between the U.S. and Canadian governments designed to monitor and protect the sovereign airspace of the two nations. The precursor of NORAD was CONAD (the Continental Air Defense Command)—both located in the U.S. military’s hardened Cheyenne Mountain base near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
In December of 1955, a local Sears store ran an ad in a Colorado Springs newspaper with a telephone hotline that purported to be a direct line to Santa Claus. The only problem was a huge typo in the Sears ad caused the phone calls to be routed to the CONAD switchboard instead of the Sears store staff. Colonel Harry Shoup, the commanding officer at the time, instructed his staff to answer the calls from hopeful children, then on Christmas Eve, he called the local radio station to say, “This is the commander at the Combat Alert Center, and we have an unidentified flying object. Why, it looks like a sleigh.” For the rest of the evening, radio stations called every hour for updates on Santa’s current location as he completed his wild around-the-world toy delivery run.
When CONAD converted to NORAD, the tradition was passed on. Every year since then, NORAD has faithfully answered phone calls and emails from all over the world updating curious children on the location and status of Santa Claus. What started off as a handful of soldiers answering the calls of Colorado Springs children has grown to include a large crew of volunteers that handle roughly 12,000 emails and 70,000 phone calls from children the world over each year.
The operation even has a website with a virtual radar system and social media presence. If it’s Christmas Eve and you absolutely need to know where Santa is, you can count on NORAD to assure you he’s out, about, and delivering toys to all the good girls and boys.
Image courtesy of Sears/NORAD.