NORAD Tracking Santa: A Cold War History


The main battle staff position in the Combat Operations Center at North American Air Defense Command headquarters, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Inset: The Sears ad that purportedly ran in 1955, ultimately sparking NORAD’s Santa tracker. Bettman/Contributor/Getty Images. Inset: NORAD Public Affairs, Bob Jones

The story that circulates about how NORAD started tracking Santa is pretty heart-warming, but doesn’t completely hold up. So there’s some myth-busting here, and maybe the tiniest bit of bah-humbug.

Tracy's Research:

  • Government of Canada. “NORAD: Backgrounder / September 11, 2014 / Project number: BG 13.056.” National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces. http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/news/article.page?doc=norad/hjiq6lbn
  • North American Aerospace Defense Command. “NORAD Agreement.” http://www.norad.mil/About-NORAD/NORAD-Agreement/
  • “Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States of America on the North American Aerospace Defense Command.” http://www.treaty-accord.gc.ca/text-texte.aspx?id=105060
  • Historica Canada. “NORAD.” http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/norad-north-american-air-defence-agreement/
  • North American Aerospace Defense Command. “About NORAD.” http://www.norad.mil/About-NORAD/
  • NORAD. “A Brief History of NORAD.” http://www.norad.mil/Portals/29/Documents/A%20Brief%20History%20of%20NORAD%20(current%20as%20of%20March%202014).pdf
  • North American Aerospace Defense Command. “NORAD tracks Santa.” http://www.norad.mil/About-NORAD/NORAD-Tracks-Santa/
  • Van Keuren, Terri et al. “Terri Van Keuren, Rick Shoup and Pamela Farrell” StoryCorps. https://storycorps.org/listen/terri-van-keuren-rick-shoup-and-pamela-farrell/
  • Public Domain Review. “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus.” https://publicdomainreview.org/collections/yes-virginia-there-is-a-santa-claus-1897/
  • Campbell, W. Joseph. “The grudging emergence of American journalism's classic editorial: New details about “Is There A Santa Claus?” American Journalism, 22, (2) Spring 2005.” http://fs2.american.edu/wjc/www/santa.htm
  • Terdiman, Daniel. “Behind the scenes: NORAD's Santa tracker.” CNet. 12/24/2010. https://www.cnet.com/news/behind-the-scenes-norads-santa-tracker/
  • NPR Staff. “NORAD's Santa Tracker Began With A Typo And A Good Sport.” Morning Edition. https://www.npr.org/2014/12/19/371647099/norads-santa-tracker-began-with-a-typo-and-a-good-sport
  • Novak, Matt. “How the US Military Turned Santa Claus Into a Cold War Icon.” Gizmodo. 12/23/2014. https://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/how-the-u-s-military-turned-santa-claus-into-a-cold-wa-1664149776
  • Conerad. “NORAD Tracks Santa.” http://www.conelrad.com/norad_tracks_santa.html
  • Appelbaum, Yoni. “Yes, Virginia, There Is a NORAD.” The Atlantic. 12/24/2015. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2015/12/yes-virginia-there-is-a-norad/421161/
  • Public Relations Society of America. “Norad and Santa: A Winning Combination.” http://apps.prsa.org/SearchResults/view/6BE-1202D06/0/Norad_and_Santa_A_Winning_Combination#.WiGAcFWnHIU
  • Pittsburgh Press. “USAF Sound Expert Honored.” Pittsburgh Press. 8/2/1956. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=MIQbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=8E0EAAAAIBAJ&pg=7411%2C485822
  • Bassett, Laura. “6 Curious Facts about NORAD’s Santa-Tracking Program.” Avaya. December 17, 2015. https://www.avaya.com/blogs/archives/2015/12/6-curious-facts-about-norads-santa-tracking-program.html
  • Aupperlee, Aaron. “NORAD preps for another year tracking Santa.” The Morning Call. 11/29/2017. http://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-nws-norad-santa-tracker-11292017-story.html
  • NORAD. “NORAD is Ready to Track Santa's Flight.” 11/30/2017. http://www.norad.mil/Newsroom/Press-Releases/Article/1384237/norad-is-ready-to-track-santas-flight/
  • NORAD Public Affairs. “Santa Tracking Test Deemed Success.” http://www.norad.mil/Newsroom/Article/578019/santa-tracking-test-deemed-success/
  • Women’s Wear Daily. “Restaurants And Night Clubs: Theatres: Slip Of A Child's Finger Puts Santa On Defense Radarscope.” New York Vol. 103, Iss. 96, (Nov 15, 1961): 63.
  • New York Times. “Hidden Spending Laid to Pentagon.” Aug 22, 1971; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Boston Globe.
  • New York Herald Tribune. “State Department Cables Welcome to Santa.” 12/25/1948.
  • “More May Follow Santa’s Route, Youngster Learns.” Pasadena Independent. 12/1/1955. Via newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com/image/68553868
  • Dendy, John B, IV. “Santa Trackers.org.” Airman; Dec 2000; 44, 12; Advanced Technologies & Aerospace Database.
  • Sullivan, Danny. “How Google Became A Santa Tracker Tradition To Rival NORAD.” MarketingLand. 12/22/2014. https://marketingland.com/google-santa-tracking-tradition-rival-norad-111822

Topics in this Podcast: Christmas, 20th century, military history, U.S. history, Canadian history, cold war