watercooler-620x413-620x413

The RedState Department of History is anxiously looking forward to the arrival of Santa Claus this evening, along with children the world over. Since it’s feeling unusually youthful today, the Department is very pleased to behave with the wonder of a child on a wonderful day of the year.

On this date in 1955, though, officials at NORAD were faced with a command decision which has grown into a holiday tradition. It had to do with children, but its response was quite grown-up.

That winter, a newspaper in Colorado Springs tried to aid children in getting a direct line to the Jolly Old Elf by running an ad from Sears, Roebuck and Co, posting Santa’s phone number in their editions. However, in the finest tradition of fake news, the ad contained a misprint.

The error meant that phones were soon ringing at the headquarters of the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), the actual number printed in the advertisement. Children from all over the region wanted to know where Santa was. And as such, Colonel Frank Shoup was faced with a problem.

With a reputation as a by-the-book soldier, Shoup, who was in charge that evening, was faced with the prospect of hanging up on hundreds of children who wanted to know where Santa was. So, Colonel Shoup made an inspired decision — he checked the radar.

Shoup left standing instructions that children should be told where Santa was. CONAD eventually changed its name, but the tradition stayed — eventually giving birth to noradsanta.com, the internet’s instant answer to the old telephone question.

Every year, over 1,500 volunteers answer 140,000 phone calls and emails to respond to children who want to know the answer to the age-old question — whether it’s okay to go to sleep on Christmas Eve so Santa can deliver the goods. The website receives about nine million unique visitors per year from over 200 countries. Now the tracker even has an app on Google Play.

As the official video trailer notes, NORAD believes — as I do — that Santa is alive and well in the hearts of people the world over.

Colonel Shoup passed away in 2009, but received this fine tribute from General Victor Renaurt, USAF (ret.):

“I have the greatest admiration for Col. Shoup and found delight in his remarkable humor with taking the first-ever call regarding Santa’s whereabouts back in 1955. His kind and thoughtful gesture will forever be a legacy at NORAD, and with the millions of people around the world who follow the NORAD Tracks Santa program each year. Truly, forever in the minds of millions he will be fondly remembered as the “Santa Colonel” and his legend will live on forever.”

Merry Christmas (today’s thread is a bit abbreviated due to present-opening) and enjoy today’s open thread!