Friday, December 25, 2009

Cold War Christmas

During the Cold War, the U.S. created an extensive network of radar
stations to warn of approaching aircraft.

Reports from these stations, including coverage over the North Pole, were combined and analyzed at the Continental Air Defense Command (the predecessor of NORAD) at Colorado Springs.

On Christmas eve 1955, the commander was unamused to receive a call on the facility "hotline" from a six year old boy who started reciting his Christmas wish list. Colonel Shoup soon learned that a misprint in the newspaper had directed children to call America's most secure facility, instead of the local Sears store "Santa line". By electing to answer the children calling with reports and updates on Santa's "flight" from the North Pole, the Air Force created a Christmas tradition.

In the early years, TV networks would interrupt their broadcasts with an announcement that an unidentified intruder had been reported by the early warning system. As the announcer continued to report with increasing concern, the intruder would be tracked closer and closer to U.S. air space, where it was intercepted by fighter jets. Upon identifying the intruder as Santa Claus, the pilots allowed him to pass (to the great relief of children nationwide). In early years, volunteers at the facility answered thousands of phone calls and the event was reported in the news on Christmas day.

In 1997 this program was extended to the internet where it receives more than a BILLION hits annually., assisted by global mapping and video clips, transmits an image of worldwide satellite tracking capability and air support for Santa's mission each year.

Christmas, in secular or religious form is celebrated in most countries of the world. In ideal times, in an ideal world, Christmas is a time for families and friends to be together. In the imperfect world in which we live, wars and hardships bring separation and loss. The staff and members of the Cold War Air Museum extend their thanks to the men and women in service who are separated from their families this season.

Wherever you may be, however you may celebrate Christmas and the New Year, we want to wish you the very best and invite you to reflect for a moment on where we have been, where we are now and where we are going. In both the U.S. and Russia you will encounter various forms of the phrase "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" (1). We appreciate your continued support for the Cold War Air Museum and its mission of preserving and "remembering" the past.

(1) More quotes attributed to George Santayana (1863-1952).

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