Fear & Loading: A Military Tradition 64 Years Young

posted on December 24, 2019

It all started in 1955 when a local Sears and Roebuck newspaper advertisement informed children they could call Santa directly—only the contact number in the advertisement had a typo. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the crew commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, the predecessor of North American Aerospace Defense Command’s (NORAD).

U.S. Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup was at the con that holiday evening and quickly realized a mistake had been made. He assured the child Mr. Claus was fine and being tracked by his crack team because they were going to be there all night, still keeping a keen eye on radar for Russian missiles or bombers. Col. Shoup then assigned a duty officer to continue answering calls, and they poured in. Thus, a tradition was born, and continued when NORAD formed in 1958. Each year since, NORAD has reported Santa's location on Dec. 24 to millions of children and families.

On Dec. 1, the 64th iteration of NORAD Tracks Santa launched at NORADSanta.org. The website is a global experience, delighting generations of families everywhere, not just in the United States. NORAD may be a binational U.S. and Canadian command charged with the serious business of aerospace and maritime warning and aerospace control of North America—as well as monitoring that activity globally—but it considers the supplementary mission of tracking Santa an honor.

“In addition to our day-to-day mission of defending North America, we are proud to carry on the tradition of tracking Santa as he travels along his yuletide flight path," said Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command. "The same radars, satellites and interceptors employed on December 24 are used year-round to defend Canadian and American airspace from threats.”

Children of all ages can call (877) HiNorad on Dec. 24 and one of the many volunteers—who also still believe—can provide Santa’s precise location.


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