Thank You, Col. Shoup – Santa’s Colonel and Chief Elf.
Gideon D. Asche
Why Does NORAD track Santa Claus on Christmas Eve?
We all have memories of listening intently to the U.S. Airforce track Sant’s progress to our city, but have you ever wondered how this came to be?
It started with a father’s realization that he had just shattered the Christmas dreams of a child, and he had to fix it.
It was Christmas of 1955 that NORAD first tracked Santa’s progress, this is how it happened, it quickly became an annual Christmas Eve tradition.
The local SEARS Dept. store placed an ad in a Colorado Springs Newspaper with a special message from Santa.
“Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct…Call me on my private phone, and I will talk to you personally any time day or night.”
The printer mixed the numbers up, and the published number was actually the Staff Duty Officer at CONAD (Continental Air Defense Command – the predecessor to NORAD). Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup answered the phone expecting his commanding officer only to hear a voice asking for Santa Claus.
Shoup, who thought it was a joke, sternly reprimanded the caller – then spent the next several moments calming a crying 6-year-old who wanted to know if the Colonel was really Santa. Col. Harry Shoup was a father and no Grinch; he assured the child she dialed the right number, but Santa couldn’t come to the phone because he was loading up to make his flight.
Col. Shoup then ordered his men to take time with any child who called asking for Santa and give them the current location of Santa and his direction of flight – Always toward whatever town the child was calling from.
Now – You tell me that story didn’t make you smile… Is there an American under 65 who doesn’t have good memories of tracking Santa via NORAD as a child?
Col. Shoup made that final muster in March, 2009 – I hope he knew just how many children, including me, he blessed since 1955.