“Twas the Night Before Christmas” 1955 when a misprinted Sears Roebuck & Co. newspaper ad featuring a direct dial in number for kid’s to chat with Santa turned out to be the U.S. – Soviet alert hotline to the Colorado HQ of America’s Air Defense Command. The top secret hotline, used only in national emergencies, alerted the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) if the USSR attacked!
Fortunately a wise and savvy U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, CONAD’s director of operations, grabbed the red emergency phone fully prepared to react to an imminent attack. On the other end of the line, he heard a trembling six year-old boy’s voice ask in wonder, “Are you really Santa Claus?” Colonel Shoup, hoping it was a prank, snapped, “Would you repeat that?” A whimpering voice began to cry, then timidly asked, “Is this one of Santa’s elves, then?”
That tiny voice was only the first of many as kids thinking they were connecting directly with Santa ringing off the hook with kids lined up by wire to say Hi and ask for goodies from Santa. Colonel Shoup “corrected course” and became a convincing Santa. He rose to the rare occasion by turning Cold War-era radar operators into North Pole elves— playing along by scanning monitors for indications of Santa time of arrival across North America. And that’s how the U.S. mighty military became an official Santa tracker.
Today, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD, CONAD’s successor) is a bi-national U.S. and Canadian organization tasked with aerospace warning and control. As a frontline in homeland defense, its slogan is “Deter, Detect, Defend.” But its most famous and favorite mission is watching the winter skies for the “big red one,” much as it has done since Col. Shoup answered the phone over 60 years ago.
You and your family can come to “Santa’s Village” today via the internet by simply typing in your search bar noradsanta.org. where kids can visit Santa’s interactive Village, listen to the US Air Force Academy Band play “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, track Santa on the fly with a mobile app.
Using the same technology used to perform their day-to-day mission— satellites, high-powered radars and jet fighters— NORAD tracks Santa Claus as he makes his Yuletide journey around the world.”
NORAD’s sleigh of different high-tech systems is used to read Rudolph’s infrared nose signature, capture high-speed video around the globe, and provide Santa and his reindeer with a NORAD fighter pilot escort. Fun fact to impress people at your holiday party: satellites and radar once clocked Santa’s flying delivery cart at 100 times faster than the Japanese bullet train.
Join in the fun this holiday by dropping into the North Pole, and enjoy listening to the Musical Stage” recording of over 25 memorable Christmas time tunes. Check out the NORAD gift shop and even learn how NORAD keeps America Safe, 24/7 through the committed effort of “America’s Finest”, the U.S. Military.
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About the author: Blogger contributor Ed Kessler is a Promotions Specialist in GPO’s Publication and Information Sales program office.