Nugget of Knowledge: How NORAD started tracking St. Nick

Wrong number lead to NORAD tracking Santa Claus


On Christmas Eve, 1955, a call came in to one of several phones on the desk of Colonel Harry Shoup at the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

There was no general on the other end but a little girl who said… this Santa Claus?

It seems the Sears department store in Colorado Springs ran an ad reading, call Santa at this number….and it was a misprint: you didn’t connect to a Santa’s helper at Sears but to the the CONAD operations center.

Colonel Shoup got a lot of calls that night and rather than hanging up, he had his operators talk to every child who phoned in that night.

Thus began the tradition of tracking Santa…when Conad became the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in 1958, the tradition continued.

Every year on December 24, fifteen hundred volunteers staff telephones and computers to answer calls and e-mails from children (and adults) from around the world.

Live updates come in through the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site (in seven languages), over telephone lines, and by e-mail to keep curious children and their families informed…..and through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

And all because of a typo in a newspaper advertisement.

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