Last year, NORAD's Santa tracking center answered 94,000 calls and
responded to 10,000 e-mails. About 10.6 million visitors went to the Web
site, which can be viewed in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German,
Japanese and Chinese.
NORAD's holiday tradition can by traced to 1955, when a Colorado Springs
newspaper printed a Sears, Roebuck & Co. ad telling children of a phone
number to talk to Santa. The number was one digit off, and the first
child to get through reached the Continental Air Defense Command,
Col. Harry W. Shoup answered.
Shoup's daughter, Terri Van Keuren, said her dad, now 91, was surprised
to hear that the little voice on the other end thought he was Santa.
"Dad thought, `What the heck? This must be some kind of code,'" said Van
Shoup, described by his daughter as "just a nut about Christmas," didn't
want to break the boy's heart, so he sounded a booming "Ho, ho, ho!" and
pretended to be Santa Claus.
Enough calls followed that Shoup assigned an officer to answer them
while the problem was fixed. But Shoup and the staff he was directing to
"locate" Santa on radar ended up embracing the idea. NORAD picked up the
tradition when it was formed 50 years ago.