It’s called the North American Aerospace Defense Command, NORAD for short. Its job is to monitor the airspace over North America, guarding us against attack. But one night a year its mission is very different.
The phones ring all day and into the night at NORAD Headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It’s their busiest day of the year, Christmas Eve.
Twelve hundred volunteers are manning the computers and phone bank, answering calls and e-mails from children all across the globe.
This has been the story for over 50 years. It all started in 1955 when a department store ad in the local Colorado Springs newspaper advertised a phone number children could use to “call Santa.” The number was a misprint.
Instead of reaching the department store, hundreds of children ended up calling the desk of the Crew Commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, the organization that would one day become the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or “NORAD.”
And when the commander on duty, Col. Harry Shoup, first picked up the phone and heard the kids asking for Santa, he asked his crew to help out. That night they used the centers technology to locate Santa and have been doing so ever since.
This year nearly 25 million people around the world are expected to follow Santa’s journey using the NORAD platforms on the web and on mobile devices, e-mail and phone.