Col Harry Shoup, the “Santa Colonel”

Time for another special Sierra Hotel Aeronautics Christmas tale...Not only is it 100% true, but it is the kind of story that reminds us that what we do...matters, and can make a difference.   

‘Twas the night before Christmas, December 24th, 1955, when a Sears Roebuck & Co. department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs newspaper telling children that they could call Santa Claus himself, directly on the telephone.

The ad featured a big picture of St. Nick, a phone number, and these instructions, “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct…Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night.” Ironically, the ad also cautioned, “Kiddies, be sure and dial the correct number!”

Unfortunately, the newspaper misprinted the phone number, listing instead the ultra top secret hotline that was used only in national emergencies to alert CONAD (the Continental Air Defense Command–NORAD’s predecessor) in the event the Soviets had launched a nuclear attack!

In the darkness of the War Room under the glow of the Combat Operations Center screens at CONAD Headquarters, the hotline rang, and U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, CONAD’s director of operations, grabbed the red emergency War Room phone.

According to Shoup’s account, he answered, thinking it was his general, “Sir, are you there?” Instead, a little 6-year-old boy’s voice came over the phone asking, “Are you really Santa Claus?”

Col Shoup, thinking it was a prank, barked into the phone asking “Would you repeat that?” and demanded to know who was calling. At this point, the little shaken voice started crying, and asked tentatively, “Is this one of Santa’s elves, then?”

Soon the Continental Air Defense Command phones began ringing off the hook with kids asking to talk to Santa...
And what happened, then? Well, in the War Room they say – that Col. Harry Shoup's heart grew three sizes that day, and, in an unprecedented command decision, he raised his hand, and gave the command to his Continental Air Defense team to assume the role of Santa’s helpers. He then issued the order to his radar operators to commence repeated Santa position reports utilizing United States Air Force radar installations to track Ol'St Nick as he made his way south from the North Pole.

Children who called were given precise updates and global position information usually strictly reserved the highest levels of the military, but now 
the Continental Air Defence Command redirected their mission to track St. Nick and his reindeer-drawn flying sleigh, a beloved annual Christmas tradition was born.

To this very day, on each Christmas Eve, NORAD continues to track Santa's position, much to the delight of millions of children around the world...

U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup became known as the “Santa Colonel,” a rank he cherished until the day he had passed...

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and his name is Col Harry Shoup, the “Santa Colonel” 

You can track Santa in real time are he travels around the world on this years epic deployment by clicking the link to NORAD below:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon
115 West Ninety Fifth Street


Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

September 21, 1897, New York Sun




1 comment

  • James Stephen Davis

    A great company. I have several hats and shirts, get compliments on them, and as a USAF vet for a USMC vet to compliment is saying something. I would like to get one of the old RAF shirts but made it too late they are all gone. Onward and upward. Thanks for everything-keep up the good work.

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