On the 24th December 1955, the Colorado Springs’ Continental Air Defense Command first began giving children the current location of Santa as he made his way across the world delivering presents. CONAD was replaced by NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) in 1958, and NORAD Tracks Santa has reported Santa’s location ever since.
The military facility was founded during the Cold War to act as an early warning system against aerial enemy attacks, and to provide Strategic Air Command with the opportunity to retaliate. However, on the 24th December 1955 an advertisement for a Sears store in Colorado Springs encouraged children to call the facility for the chance to speak to Santa Claus. It was, of course, a mistake – the phone number was misprinted and so presumably hundreds of Sears staff sat by silent telephones while military personnel instead starting receiving calls from excited children wanting to speak to Santa.
Colonel Harry Shoup was in charge that night, and received a call on one of the top secret telephone lines that only rang if an imminent attack had been identified. The child on the end of the line must have been terrified as the confused colonel demanded to know who was calling his secret number. However, as more calls came in he instructed his staff to give a “current location” for Santa when children rang the number.
The tradition continued as CONAD was absorbed into the new NORAD organization, with thousands of volunteers manning the phones to provide tracking data to anyone who calls. You can also visit NORAD Tracks Santa on the internet at http://www.noradsanta.org/