The US government may have partially shut down, but the North American Airspace Defense Command (NORAD) is still tracking Santa Claus’ journey across the globe full-time. NORAD announced Friday they’ll continue to track Santa’s journey. It will be fielding calls throughout the night and day from children, trying to pinpoint exactly where Santa is and when he will make his long awaited arrival.
Not an easy task, since HE DOESN’T EXIST.
From The National Public Radio (NPR)
“The only organization that has the technology, qualifications and people to do it!”
For 63 years, the organization otherwise tasked with detecting airspace activity has turned its attention to Santa Claus on Christmas Eve — tracking his sleigh and nine (9) reindeer as they glide through the night to every child’s house — well, the ones he’s deemed good for the year.
“NORAD has been following Santa with the help of nearly 1,500 military personnel and volunteers. Far better duty that putting up a useless Wall on the Mexico-US border. Tracking a mythological being across the globe. Some folks think I or Buzz Aldrin, or any old people, are in a bad way. Not compared to tracking someone that does not exist, right? How it began, when I was one of those punk kids at age 5.
In 1955, when Sears Roebuck & Co. misprinted a telephone number in an advertisement for kids wishing to talk to Santa, they sent dozens of children calling the Continental Air Defense Command center instead.
Col. Harry Shoup was a real by-the-book guy.
“At home, his two daughters were limited to phone calls of no more than three minutes (monitored by an egg timer) and were automatically grounded if they missed curfew by even a minute. At work, during his 28-year Air Force career, the decorated fighter pilot was known as a no-nonsense commander and stickler for rules. Which makes what happened that day in 1955 even more of a Christmas miracle.
“It was a December day in Colorado Springs when the phone rang on Col. Shoup’s desk. Not the black phone, the red phone.
“When that phone rang, it was a big deal,” said Shoup’s daughter, Terri Van Keuren, 69, a retiree in Castle Rock, Colo. “It was the middle of the Cold War and that phone meant bad news.”
“Shoup was a commander of the Continental Air Defense Command, CONAD, the early iteration of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Then, as now, the joint U.S.-Canadian operation was the tense nerve center of America’s defensive shield against a sneak air attack. In 1955, the command center was filled with a massive map of North America on plexiglass, behind which backward-writing technicians on scaffolds marked every suspect radar blip in grease pencil.
It was not a place of fun and games. And when that red phone rang — it went directly to a four-star general at the Pentagon — things got real. All eyes would have been on Shoup when he answered.
“Col. Shoup,” he barked. But there was silence.
“Until finally, a small voice said, “Is this Santa Claus?”
“Shoup, by all accounts, was briefly confused and then fully annoyed. “Is this a joke?” Glaring at the wide-eyed staff for any sign of a smile, he let the caller have it with all the indignity of a bird-colonel who brooked no nonsense on this most vital of all phone lines.
“Just what do you think you’re doing,” he began.
“But then the techno-military might of the United States was brought up short by the sound of sniffles. Whoever was on the phone was crying, and Shoup suddenly realized it really was a kid who was trying to reach Santa Claus.
“The colonel paused, considered and then responded:
“Ho, ho, ho!” he said as his crew looked on astonished. “Of course this is Santa Claus. Have you been a good boy?”
“He talked to the local youngster for several minutes, hearing his wishes for toys and treats and assuring him he would be there on Christmas Eve. Then the boy asked Santa to bring something nice for his mommy.
“The boy put his mother on the phone, and Shoup went back to business, crisply explaining to the woman just what facility their call had reached.
“He said later he thought she must have been a military wife,” said Van Keuren. “She was properly cowed.” [ed., “cowed”, I think, meaning she was demeaned properly].
“But she also had an explanation. The woman asked Shoup to look at that day’s local newspaper. Specifically, at a Sears ad emblazoned with a big picture of Santa that invited kids to “Call me on my private phone, and I will talk to you personally any time day or night.”
“The number provided, ME 2-6681, went right to one of the most secure phones in the country.
“They were off by one digit,” said Van Keuren. “It was a typo.”
“When Shoup hung up, the phone rang again. He ordered his staff to answer each Santa call while he got on the black phone with AT&T to set up a new link to Washington, D.C. “Let Sears have the old number,” he told them.” – NPR, Morning Addition (2014)