The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Santa Tracker might seem an excessively militarized solution to track Santa. However, there’s a very interesting story that led to the establishment of the Santa Tracker at one of the world’s most elite and sophisticated military establishments.
When it comes to tracking Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve, there’s nothing more serious than NORAD. The Alaska NORAD Region (ANR) maintains continuous capability to detect, validate and warn of any atmospheric threat in its area of operations. Hence, from a technical perspective, NORAD seems to be the perfect agency to possess a state-of-the-art Santa tracker. However, it seems a little odd to see a hardcore military organization engaged in tracking Santa’s ‘location’ as he allegedly zooms across the world delivering presents.
The Santa Tracker began with a misprint in the newspaper over 60 years ago, reported 9News. Known as CONRAD then, Col. Harry Shoup was the commander in charge. Way back in 1955, he was sitting in his office when his phone rang.
Now, this wasn’t just any telephone. It was the “Red” phone, the one used only by the highest in command, according to Shoup’s daughter, Pamela Farrell,
“Only a four star General or the Pentagon would call on that phone. It was a very important phone.”
Expecting a General to be on the other end of the line, Shoup answered the phone, only to be greeted with a sweet, angelic voice that could only belong to an innocent child.
The tiny voice asked Col. Shoup,
“Is this Santa?”
His military training caused him to think that perhaps it was a joke. “He thought at that point, someone’s messing with me,” said Shoup’s son Rick. However, being a thorough gentleman who simply couldn’t break a llittle girl’s heart, Shoup decided to play along.
Sounding festive, the colonel said,
“Ho, ho, ho. May I speak to your mother?”
Once the child handed the phone to her mother, Shoup managed to solve the mystery as to how a top secret, high priority phone number ended up in the hands of a civilian, a suburban girl at that. The mother revealed she got the number from an advertisement in the newspaper.
Evidently, Sears, a hugely popular department store chain, had placed an interesting and appealing ad in the newspaper offering kids a chance to call and talk to Santa Claus. Obviously, the number mentioned in the ad was misprinted. At that time, there were no Santa trackers, let alone one managed by a military organization.
Realizing an interesting opportunity, Shoup decided to see this mistake all the way through and ordered two airmen to man the red phone and talk to anyone who called (unless it was an actual General). The colonel intended to play along only till Sears could correct its mistake. However, a couple of weeks later, one of the airmen put a fake sleigh on the radar at CONAD. That’s how the Santa tracker was born.
“He loved the story. He loved how it progressed. He loved Christmas,” shared Farrell.
The Santa tracker is now a full-fledged, toll-free call-center manned by the men and women in uniform. The Santa tracking organization is equipped with a toll-free hotline for the program, plus it has advanced call-handling technology, internet service and many hard working volunteers.
[Image Credit | NORAD]