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On 30. November 1955 a phone rang at Col. . Harry Shoup’s desk at the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD). CONAD was assigned to watch out for a Soviet air strike and to alert the Strategic Air Command. In the middle of the Cold War, a call to Colonel Shoup’s desk could have brought important national security news.
When Colonel Shoup answered, the little voice on the other end asked, « Is that Santa Claus? »
« There may be a man named Santa Claus at the North Pole, but he’s not the one I’m worried about coming from that direction, » was Shoup’s response, according to an article published the next day. One can only imagine how the young caller reacted.
Why call CONAD to reach Santa Claus? Everything started with a wrong choice. That year, Sears ran an ad in which Santa Claus invited young people to “call me directly on my phone. “However, one caller ignored the ad’s warning to“ be sure and dial the correct number ”and instead reached Colonel Shoup – sparking a chain of events that would become a Christmas tradition.
The phone number for Sears’ Santa was just a few different numbers than Colonel Shoup’s desk at CONAD, which made the fateful mistake possible.
During Christmas week, Shoup’s employees added Santa and his sleigh to the Plexiglas card that CONAD used to track unidentified aircraft. The joke sparked an idea, and CONAD told the press that they “will continue to track and guard Santa Claus and his sleigh on his journey to and from the U.. S.. . against possible attacks from those who do not believe in Christmas. ”
Gizmodo journalist Matt Novak points out that both Shoup and CONAD responded less « yes, Virginia, there’s a Santa Claus » and more « yes, Virginia, there’s a cold war ». Their message that CONAD was there to protect Santa Claus from threats coincided with a larger media campaign that focused on the importance of air defense.
However, the Cold War wasn’t the first time the U. . S.. . Military reported seeing Santa Claus. According to Yoni Appelbaum for the Atlantic, General Eisenhower issued a press release during World War II confirming that « a new North Pole Command has been formed … Santa is in charge of operations … He has a small army of gnomes under his command, » despite the Die censored version cut out the location of Santa’s headquarters. In 1948, the Luftwaffe reported that one of their early warning radars had “discovered an unidentified sled propelled by eight reindeer, and that it was on 14. 000 feet in 180 degrees. ”
CONAD would soon stand out from those earlier messages of Santa’s recklessness. In 1956, a year after Colonel Shoup spoke to the young caller, the Associated Press and United Press International called to ask if Shoup’s team were planning to track down Santa again, and CONAD confirmed it. In 1958, the newly established North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) continued the tradition and expanded it.
In the 1960s, NORAD sent records to radio stations with updates on Santa’s Path to play for their listeners. The 1970s brought with it Santa Tracker commercials. By 1997, Santa Tracker was digitized – the website launch may be known to our younger readers. (Which of course has received some improvements since then. )
The way NORAD chases Santa Claus has also evolved over the years. Their website states that they are now using a combination of radar, satellites that « easily spot Rudolph’s bright red nose, » and jet fighters. « Canadian NORAD fighter pilots flying the CF-18 take off from Newfoundland and greet Santa Claus in North America, » explains NORAD, and in the USA, « American NORAD fighter pilots in the F-15, F16 or F-22 have the thrill to fly with Santa Claus. ”
Today you can follow NORAD’s Santa Claus updates online, via social media, by email, live chat – and of course, how it all started by calling NORAD. The staff are available until midnight on Christmas Eve – probably because they have to be in bed before Santa Claus arrives.
NORAD Chases Santa Claus, Santa Claus, Christmas Day, North American Aerospace Defense Command
World News – USA – Why NORAD Chases Santa Claus
. . Related title :
– Sorry, Grinch. Virus won’t stop NORAD from tracking down Santa Claus
– Yes, NORAD says there is a Santa Claus
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