Santa Tracker Won’t Be Affected Government Shutdown, NORAD Says

By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.
December 23, 2018 Updated: December 23, 2018

During the partial government shutdown, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will still run its famed “Santa tracker” during Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

“In the event of a government shutdown, NORAD will continue with its 63-year tradition of NORAD Tracks Santa on Dec. 24. Military personnel who conduct NORAD Tracks Santa are supported by approximately 1,500 volunteers who make the program possible each and every year,” NORAD tweeted on Dec. 21.

The hundreds of volunteers will be working on Christmas Eve to track Santa Claus and to answer children’s calls.

The tradition dates back to some time during the Cold War, NORAD says on its website.

“On Dec. 24, 1955, a call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. However, this call was not from the president or a general. It was from a young child in Colorado Springs who was following the directions in an advertisement printed in the local paper—the youngster wanted to know the whereabouts of Santa Claus,” said NORAD.

“The ad said, ‘Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number.’ However, the number was printed incorrectly in the advertisement and rang into the CONAD operations center,” according to the website.

A NORAD official, Col. Harry Shoup, received several phone calls from children. He didn’t hang up on them, but he instead instructed his operators to find the location of Santa and reported it to every child who called.

“And then there was a small voice that just asked, ‘Is this Santa Claus?’ ” Shoup’s daughter, Pam Farrell, recalled, according to NPR. She said he was annoyed at first, but then the child began to cry before Shoup tried to cheer the boy up.

As NPR reported, volunteers take two-hour shifts starting early on Dec. 24 every year.

NORAD’s commander, Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, said he’ll answer phones on Monday.

“This is my first NORAD Tracks Santa,” said O’Shaughnessy, who assumed command in May, reported The Associated Press. “I’m really excited.”

O’Shaughnessy was asked about the program during a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April to confirm him as the head of NORAD, a joint operation between the United States and Canada based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“I assume this committee can count on your commitment to continue that venerable tradition,” Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton told him. “Yes sir, especially since my son Sam would want to see that as well,” O’Shaughnessy replied, AP reported.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Postal Service will not be impacted by the shutdown, it announced.

“All Post Offices will remain open for business. Because we are an independent entity that is funded through the sale of our products & services, and not by tax dollars, our services will not be impacted by a gov’t shutdown,” the Postal Service tweeted Dec. 22.

Each year, NORAD’s Tracks Santa website (can be accessed here) gets nearly 9 million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Meanwhile, volunteers get more than 140,000 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline from children around the world, according to the website.

Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.