Tracking Santa's progress around the globe

1:59 PM, Dec 18, 2011   |    comments
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It is the 56th year the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which tracks flying objects such as planes and missiles coming toward North America, has watched Santa on his journey.

It has the operation up on its website at www.noradsanta.org.

The tradition started back in 1955 when a child in Colorado Springs called the phone number of NORAD's predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) and Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup answered the phone. Shoup spoke with 9NEWS in December 2001 about what happened next.

"When the phone rang, I said, 'Yes sir?'" the retired colonel said from his home in Colorado Springs. "I thought sure it was General Partridge, but this little boy started telling me what he wanted for Christmas. I thought somebody's playing a joke and I don't stand for that stuff, so I thought when I see who's laughing, I'll nail them good. He said, 'You're not really Santa Claus,' and I said, 'Ho, ho, ho, yes, I am. Have you been a good little boy?' At that time, the lieutenant colonel was coming up the stairs and he must have been thinking, 'The old man's flipped his lid.'"

A department store advertisement in the Colorado Springs Gazette mistakenly gave out the command center hotline as Santa's hotline.

After that first phone call, hundreds more came and Shoup slightly changed his answer to say his staff was tracking the movements of Santa Claus.

Since then, the Santa Tracking program has grown exponentially each year, expanding to the Internet in 1998.

Many volunteers now help NORAD with the operation. Each volunteer handles about 40 telephone calls an hour. The team responds to a total of more than 12,000 emails and 70,000 phone calls from 200 different countries and territories. Most of that happens during one 25-hour span from 2 a.m. on Dec. 24 to 3 a.m. on Dec. 25.

The program has nearly 49,000 followers on Twitter (@noradsanta) and the Facebook page (facebook.com/noradsanta) has nearly 707,000 fans.

As for Shoup, he encouraged kids to "be good, Santa's watching," and he himself remains a believer, "I think it'd be dangerous to think otherwise."

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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