On Dec. 24, 1955, the Sears department store in Colorado Springs, CO ran a newspaper promotion inviting kids to call Santa
on a special telephone line. Unfortunately, the ad misprinted the number, and the typo — by some Christmas miracle — actually matched the direct line for the CONAD operations center.
The late Col. Harry Shoup was the command officer on duty for Christmas Eve, 1955, and when his switchboard first informed him that a child was calling asking to speak to Santa, he ordered his operator to respond with Santa’s current known location. As each subsequent typo-invited call came in, the operators continued to offer up Santa’s updated whereabouts. This act of Christmas kindness earned Shoup the nickname of “the Santa Colonel,” and earned CONAD a reputation as the place to learn Santa’s in-flight position on Christmas Eve.
The following year, CONAD maintained the tradition of disclosing Santa’s position and flight path to anyone who called. The Santa-tracking service continued when CONAD became NORAD in 1958. Today, the United States and Canadian air command staffs recruit literally thousands of volunteers (occasionally including celebrities
) to answer requests for Santa’s Christmas Eve coordinates. If all the aforementioned online methods of tracking Santa Claus aren’t to your liking, you can still use the phone; just call 1-800-HI-NORAD