ShareThis Page
NORAD preps for another year tracking Santa |

NORAD preps for another year tracking Santa

Volunteers help track Santa on Dec. 24, 2016, at North American Aerospace Defense Command near Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Photo from NORAD)
Submitted photo This is the original newspaper advertisement that had a misprint that started NORAD tracking Santa Claus for 60 years.

The attention of the North American Aerospace Defense Command may be trained on North Korea or other hotspots around the world at the moment, but the men and women of NORAD won’t be too busy to track Santa this year.

NORAD’s Santa-tracking website, , launches Friday as the crew at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, Colo., gears up to follow the big man in a red suit on his big night.

NORAD claims its constellation of satellites use infrared radar to track the heat signature from Rudolph’s red nose. Location information is then shared with fighter pilots who often escort Santa’s sleigh in North American airspace. The Navy and Coast Guard patrol the waters below the flight path, and hi-tech Santa Cameras mounted around the world capture photos of his journey.

Air Force personnel have been tracking Santa since 1955 when a department store printed the wrong number in a newspaper ad for children to call to speak to Santa. Instead of ringing at the North Pole, the number printed in the paper rang the red phone in front of the crew commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center. Col. Harry Shoup was on duty that night and knew the red phone only rang when the Pentagon or the general was calling. Shoup picked up the phone and, after a moment of silence, heard a small voice ask, “Are you really Santa Claus?”

Shoup played along, he said in an interview posted in 2009 after he had died.

NORAD was formed in 1958 and has carried on the tradition for nearly 60 years. NORAD told The Associated Press last year that 1,500 volunteers answered nearly 141,000 phone calls and more than 2,800 emails in 2015 .

The website will feature games, activities and a countdown until Christmas Eve. Then, starting at 2:01 a.m. Dec. 24, visitors to the site will be able to watch Santa prepare for his flight and follow Old Saint Nick as he traverses the world.

Starting at 6 a.m., people can call NORAD at 1-877-HI-NORAD or email to ask where Santa is. There are NORAD Santa tracking apps available in the Apple and Google Play stores and Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana and OnStar will tell users Santa’s location.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.