Fear & Loading: How NORAD Saved Santa

posted on December 24, 2015

Members of our military guard the front line of freedom, even on Christmas Eve, but six decades ago, those manning their stations at the U.S. Continental Air Defense Command went above and beyond the call of duty and inadvertently spread a holiday spirit that continues to this day.  

It was Dec. 24, 1955, and USAF Col. Harry Shoup fielded the first call. A little girl on the other end of the line dialed a wrong number listed in a Sears and Roebuck advertisement. She had no idea she was connected a NORAD hotline when she asked to speak to Santa.

That was serious stuff back at the height of the Cold War, but long before marketing gurus termed the phrase “adapt and overcome,” Col. Shoup explained Saint Nicholas was aloft, on the radar and safely delivering packages. Calls flooded in, and the rest of the staff on duty followed his lead, providing an “all’s well” status and along with a position.

A lot has changed since that fateful first call 60 years ago, but the tradition is more popular than ever. Today children of all ages can visit NORAD’s official Santa tracker to watch his progress (even on a smartphone or tablet). The website has games, holiday music, virtual tours of workshops at the North Pole, sleigh technical data and more. It’s hypnotizing to my youngest grandson.

Every year more than 1,000 uniformed and civilian volunteers staff the facility to answer e-mails, tweet and keep everyone updated. A dedicated YouTube channel includes videos and trailers, and one short video even explains how that wrong number launched the program.

To all the men and women in our nation’s uniforms standing guard on the front line of freedom this holiday season, thank you. Your services don’t always garner headlines, or earn medals, but sometimes those seemingly little duties—like Col Shoup’s patience on Christmas Eve—make a huge difference, and define exactly why this is the greatest nation on earth.   


right side bolt-action rifle gray wood silver metal steel stainless
right side bolt-action rifle gray wood silver metal steel stainless

NRA Gun of the Week: Kimber 84M Pro Varmint

On this week’s “Gun of the Week” video preview, watch as American Rifleman staff take a short-action Kimber 84M rifle to the range for discussion.

The Armed Citizen® Oct. 15, 2021

Read today's "The Armed Citizen" entry for real stories of law-abiding citizens, past and present, who used their firearms to save lives.

Rifleman Q&A: M1 Garand Vs. M1 Carbine Rebarrels

It seems to me that few World War II-vintage M1 Garand rifles retain their original barrels today, whereas most M1 Carbines of the same era I have seen still have the original barrels?

Record Setting Participation In USA Clay Target League Fall Season

This fall season of the USA Clay Target League has reached new heights, with a record breaking 651 high school and college teams, equating to 11,783 of the young enthusiasts, participating.

NRA Museums: 85 Years Of Preserving The Past For The Future

In June 1923, the Official Journal of the National Rifle Association became The American Rifleman, a bi-monthly publication with a staff that included Maj. Julian S. Hatcher, Lt. Col. Townsend Whelen, Capt. Charles Askins, Sr. and a host of others whose names read like a who’s who of legendary gun writers and experts.

Savage A17: The Semi-Automatic .17 HMR Rifle

Introduced in 2015, the Savage A17 rifle line was one of the first semi-automatics to be chambered for the tiny but hot .17 HMR cartridge. 


Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.