Ever wonder why NORAD tracks Santa Claus? The story involves a man who could have just told a bunch of kids that they called the wrong number back in 1955. Instead, he decided to do a small thing to make them happy, and started a new tradition in the process.
Colonel Harry Shoup was on duty December 24, 1955 when children started calling the CONAD Center in Colorado, asking to talk to Santa. Why were kids calling a top secret command center on Christmas Eve? Well, a local Sears store in Colorado Springs had placed an ad in the local newspaper telling kids they could call a particular number and talk to Santa himself.
Instead, the children were connected to the pre-eminent command center for the United States military in the middle of the Cold War! After a few confusing phone calls from little kids, Col. Shoup decided it wasn’t right to tell them that they had the wrong number. With the most sophisticated tracking system of the day at his disposal, he ordered his soldiers to use the vast array of radar stations available to track Santa’s progress, and relay that info to the kids who called.
The next year, CONAD offered the same type of information to kids calling in, and soon enough a tradition was established. When CONAD was reconfigured into NORAD, the operation went on as before with regular reports of Santa’s activities across North America.
The tradition grew from phone calls, to radio broadcasts, to an internet website. So if you remember hearing of Santa’s progress on the radio or TV news, or if your kiddoes check the web on December 24th to see how he’s doing, you have Colonel Harry Shoup to thank for it. So thank you Col. Shoup, a true Christmas hero. Your decision that night in 1955 helps make the holidays all the more real and special for millions of kids around the world.