This Week in History


Deter, Detect, Defend … attacks against Santa Claus

For the week of Monday December 22, 2014

On Christmas Eve, December 24, 1955, a small mistake made in the central United States marked the beginning of a holiday tradition in Canada.

Santa Claus visits CONAD headquarters to finalize his plans.
© Photo by Lt.-Cmdr. Gary Ross

That holiday season, a Sears advertisement provided a phone number to find out where Santa Claus was along his journey. A girl from Colorado Springs called, only to discover the wrong number was printed! Colonel Harry Shoup of the nearby Continental Air Defense (CONAD) Operations Center took the call, followed by many others from children wanting to know if Santa Claus was near their home. Not wishing to disappoint them, Colonel Shoup decided to locate Santa Claus.

During the Cold War, the Canadian and U.S. governments united their efforts to protect North America’s airspace. They reached an official agreement in 1958, and CONAD,  until then responsible for U.S. air defence, became NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command). This bi-national organization controls the movement of all non-natural elements above the continent.

Volunteers answer more than 100,000 calls and 7,000 emails in the 24 hours leading up to Christmas.
© Photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas J Doscher

NORAD has continued CONAD’s tradition with NORAD Tracks Santa. Pilots are designated to escort Santa's reindeer as soon as the sled crosses the Canadian border. Today, a number of volunteers track Santa Claus along his journey and share the information with the public by phone, email, social media, and through the interactive map on the NORAD site. This Web page includes a list of the gifts distributed and videos of Santa Claus flying above each country.

Canadian Naval Aviation during the Cold War is designated as a national historic event for its role in protecting the country. A number of Canada’s defence-related buildings are federal heritage buildings. In addition, Canada’s two prime ministers who played a role in the bi-national NORAD agreement, William Lyon Mackenzie King and John George Diefenbaker, are designated as persons of national historic significance.

To learn more about Canadian defences, please read Canada's War Effort Takes Flight and Sails Away! The Canadian Navy is Born in the This Week in History archives.

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