JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. — In 1955, the Cold War was 8-years-old.
Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union were high.
Joseph Stalin was dead, Nikita Khrushchev had taken his place, the Warsaw Pact had been created and the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) — NORAD’s (North American Aerospace Defense Command) forerunner — had been established with the mission of “defending the United States against air attack.” This was all part of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s New Look Policy toward containing the Soviet threat.
At the CONAD operations center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, there was a direct line phone to the center’s director of operations. Its purpose: To inform CONAD that United States was at war with the Soviet Union.
In December 1955, the phone rang.
Fortunately for Col. Harry Shoup, the director of operations, the United States had not gone to war with Russia. Instead of the president, it was a little girl in Colorado Springs. The child, who was following the directions in a Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement printed in a local newspaper.
The ad read: “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number.” The number in the advertisement was one digit off and instead of getting the local department store it went directly to CONAD.
The child asked Shoup if he was Santa Claus. Shoup paused, but he recovered and replied, “Yes, I am.”
More calls started coming in. Shoup eventually had his Airmen take over telling them to that they now had an additional duty: Whoever answered the phone was Santa Claus.
Sixty years later, the tradition continues.
Beginning Dec. 1, visitors can visit www.noradsanta.org. The website features a mobile version, a holiday countdown, new games, daily activities and is available in eight languages: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Portuguese.
Official NORAD Tracks Santa apps are available in the Windows, Apple and Google Play stores, so parents and children can countdown the days until Santa’s launch on their smart phones and tablets.
Tracking opportunities are also offered on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google. Santa followers can go to any of these sites and search for “@noradsanta” to get started.
On Dec. 24, the website will be on duty as Santa Claus makes his way around the world.
Starting at 12:01 a.m. MST on Dec. 24 — 11:01 p.m. Dec. 23 PST, website visitors can watch Santa make preparations for his flight. NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will stream videos as Santa makes his way around the world delivering presents.
At 4 a.m. Mountain Standard Time — 3 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, trackers worldwide can speak with a live phone operator to inquire as to Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now the most important part is making sure you are on Santa’s “Nice” list.