NORAD is the North American Aerospace Defense Command, located in Colorado, and what they do is certainly not primarily Santa-related.
Their primary mission is working to fulfill homeland defense responsibilities. Simply put, NORAD watches the sky and aerospace over North America and makes sure potential threats are detected immediately.
However, in 1955, they got some phone calls that added a new element to their mission...
On Dec. 24, 1955, a call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. However, this call was not from the president or a general. It was from a girl in Colorado Springs who was following the directions in an advertisement printed in the local paper – she wanted to know the whereabouts of Santa Claus.
The ad said “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number.” However, the number was printed incorrectly in the advertisement and rang into the CONAD operations center.
On duty that night was Col. Harry Shoup, who has come to be known as the “Santa Colonel.” Col. Shoup received numerous calls that night and rather than hanging up, he had his operators find the location of Santa Claus and reported it to every child who phoned in that night.
Thus began a tradition carried on by the North American Aerospace Defense Command when it was formed in 1958. Today, through satellite systems, high-powered radars and jet fighters, NORAD tracks Santa Claus as he makes his Yuletide journey around the world.
Every Christmas Eve, several hundred volunteers staff telephone hotlines and computers to answer calls and e-mails from children (and adults) from around the world. Live updates are provided on the NORAD Tracks Santa Web Site (in six languages), over telephone lines and by e-mail to keep curious children and their families informed about where Santa really is and if it’s time to get to bed.
In November and December 2006, the NORAD Tracks Santa Web Site received nearly a billion hits from 210 countries and territories around the world. More than half a million people called the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline, and volunteers received nearly 12,500 e-mails from children around the globe.
NORAD Tracks Santa has become a magical and global phenomenon, delighting generations of families everywhere.