Click here to skip navigation
An official website of the United States Government.
Skip Navigation

In This Section

Our Director Director's Blog

North American Aerospace Defense Command

All around the world, this is the day children try to stay up as late as they can, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus as he makes his way to their house.

Did you know that thanks to the Federal government’s North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), youngsters can figure out just when to turn their eyes skyward? NORAD’s Santa Tracker will let them know when Santa and his sleigh are approaching. While they are waiting, Santa watchers can also call the Santa hotline – 877-HI-NORAD – to make any last-minute gift requests. Those that are too shy to call the big guy can send a note to his personal email address.

I’d like to share with you the interesting story behind NORAD’s Santa Tracker. This Santa watch started with a simple misprint in a Sears Department Store ad and a kind-hearted member of the military.

In 1955, Col. Harry Shoup was stationed at the Continental Air Defense Command. The office, which is now NORAD, had two phones – a regular line and one of the top-secret red phones that rings at times of national emergency.

One night Col. Shoup’s red phone rang. The colonel answered it, and heard a child at the other end asking for Santa. At first Shoup was angry, thinking it was a prank.  But the child’s mother explained that the obviously wrong number was printed in a Sears ad that encouraged children to call Santa and ask for their gifts.

The colonel decided to have a little fun. He put together a team to answer the inevitable calls that started to flood in as a result of the ad. Eventually, he came up with the idea of calling radio stations and alerting DJs to the location of Santa’s sleigh. The stations would then call in regularly for updates. Shoup became known as Col. Santa, and the tradition carried on, year after year. Thanks to a recent story on National Public Radio and interviews with the late colonel’s grown children, we have the details of this endearing story.

Today, NORAD continues to track Santa and his reindeer. Volunteers man the hotline – though it is no longer a top-secret number – and update the world on Santa’s progress through Christmas Eve. It just goes to show that Federal employees – both military and civilian – have some of the coolest jobs. It also shows how a little innovation and imagination can go a long way.

The Department of Defense’s Press Secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, says that “every indication is that Santa Claus will arrive on time this year to deliver presents to the world’s estimated 1.9 billion children” and that NORAD is “tuning up the Santa-tracking system” this year. NoradSanta.org now shows the countdown until Santa takes to the skies. Kirby also assures us that the anti-Grinch firewall is up and monitoring for threats and that NORAD has verified the load-bearing capacity of all rooftops. Their infrared detecting satellites are even calibrated to see Rudolph’s nose. That’s what I call cutting-edge technology.

Join us in tracking Santa this year. And I hope that you and your loved ones have a safe, happy, and restful holiday season. 

Santa Claus flies through the sky with his reindeer.


Control Panel

Unexpected Error

There was an unexpected error when performing your action.

Your error has been logged and the appropriate people notified. You may close this message and try your command again, perhaps after refreshing the page. If you continue to experience issues, please notify the site administrator.

Working...