NORAD: Tracking Santa for More Than 60 Years

Children and their parents have been able to track Santa Claus for more than 60 years now, thanks to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD, Santa tracking program. Today it is all high-tech, but it didn’t begin that way.

NORAD’s Santa Tracker began in December 1955 when Colonel Harry Shoup was on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center (CORAD) for the night. The infamous red phone rang, with only the Pentagon or military generals the ones to make calls to it. Shoup answered the phone and initially met with silence on the other end, and then a quiet voice asking,”Are you really Santa Claus?”

Although the military man first thought a staff member was playing a joke on him, when the young voice on the phone repeated her question, Shoup played along as if he were the jolly man in the red suit.

More calls followed that night; a department store ran an advertisement in a local newspaper encouraging children to call Santa Claus – but the phone number cover contained a typo – the number to the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center. Staff manned the phones that night, answering the questions of anxious children, and a new tradition was born. CORAD was the predecessor of NORAD. Who better than an aerospace center to track the lively resident of the North Pole?

Every year a “Santa Colonel” is in charge of NORAD, that person being Shoup until his death in 2009. Everyone manning the phones is a volunteer, where last year 1,500 volunteers answered more than 140,000 phone calls and 2800 emails.

You can track Santa Claus a number of ways this year, including the NORAD website, NORAD via Twitter and Google Earth.


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