History of the Santa Tracker: How a Typo began Christmas tracking at NORAD

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NORAD

Back in 1955, the home of the Continental Air Defense Command would eventually become NORAD in 1958. You’ve probably heard of NORAD in movies like Dr. Strangelove, Fail-Safe, WarGames, and ID-4. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a joint US/Canadian military installation that sits 1,600 feet deep inside Cheyenne Mountain here in Colorado Springs. When it was built in the late ’50s and early ’60s, it was intended to be able to handle a nuclear blast outside. Even in this day of MIRV nuclear missiles, NORAD remains its reputation as a self-contained bunker, and for years has been responsible for scanning the airspace above North America for missiles, aircraft, and near-space objects. I’ve visited the missile command center and seen the “big board” during operations, though the displays have only unclassified information when visitors look in.

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Colonel Harry Shoup

Phone Call

During the Christmas holiday season in 1955, Sears ran an advertisement in the local Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph newspaper inviting kiddies to call in to talk with Santa. The ad had a typo of a single digit — or a child transposed two of the numbers — that took calls directly to the top-secret red crisis phone line of Colonel Harry Shoup, the officer on duty that night. Only a four-star general at the Pentagon had that number.

Santa Tracker Volunteers

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Silicon Valley Tech Exec: Cloud, Data Storage, Automation. Author of fascinating articles about history, tech trends, andpop culture. Blog: http://billpetro.com

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