An inside look at the single largest public outreach program for the Department of Defense — and the Pentagon’s most elaborate propaganda operation.
But the number printed in the newspaper in December 1955 had a digit wrong — and was instead the direct line into the secret military nerve center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where the Pentagon was on the lookout to prevent nuclear war. The Air Force officer and World War II fighter pilot who took the first call that day for Father Christmas thought it was a crank — and Col. Harry Shoup sternly said so.
“The little kid started crying,” Shoup’s daughter, Terri Van Keuren, recalled in an interview. “So Dad went into his ‘Ho ho ho’ and got the kid’s list.”
Sixty-two years later, the Continental Air Defense Command is now the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and its interactive NORAD Tracks Santa has become the largest single public outreach program for the Defense Department. It’s also, you might say, the Pentagon’s most elaborate propaganda operation.
On Christmas Eve, while monitoring the heavens for North Korean missile launches or Russian military aircraft flying too close to the U.S. or Canada, NORAD will also be reporting the progress of Santa and his reindeer as they travel from the North Pole around the world delivering presents and holiday cheer. It will correlate the jolly elf’s journey with its network of 47 radar stations, spy satellites in “geosynchronous” orbit 22,300 miles above the earth, fighter jets and a suite of special high-tech “SantaCams.” Or so the publicity stunt’s plan goes.
“The moment our radar tells us that Santa has lifted off, we begin to use the same satellites that we use in providing warning of possible missile launches aimed at North America,” says NORAD’s detailed 14-page internal handbook for the operation, which is replete with Santa stats (first flight believed to be Dec. 24, 343 A.D.) and even talking points for that uncomfortable question many parents also confront: “Is there a Santa Claus?”
It’s all part of the ornamented script that more than 1,500 volunteers — including the four-star general in charge of defending North America — are using to field an anticipated 150,000 calls and an avalanche of emails and social media posts (2 million Facebook followers so far) who are all seeking to locate Ole St. Nick on his starlight odyssey.
“As soon as you’re hanging up there’s another kid wanting to talk to you,” Preston Schlachter, NORAD’s Track Santa program manager and its director of community outreach, said of the 23-hour period leading up to Christmas when volunteers work in two-hour shifts, backed up by dozens of sponsors ranging from Microsoft to the National Defense Industrial Association, Taco Bell and the local Amy’s Donuts in Colorado Springs.
In the past, VIPs like former first lady Michelle Obama have also taken a turn at the phones.
“It is the best two hours you’ll ever experience,” Schlachter added in an interview. “You are getting these calls from all over the world. One of the coolest things I like about the program is the multi-generational aspect of it. We are seeing feedback on social media, people who call in and tell us they tracked Santa when they were kids and they’ve introduced it to their kids and now they’re introducing it to their grandkids.” Read the rest of this entry »
“Am I othering you right now? Did I carpet bomb your safe space?”
This is a hilarious sendup of an outbreak of embarrassing left-wing hand-holding “How to talk to your Republican uncle at Thanksgiving” articles like this, and this, and this, that are appearing in advance of the upcoming holiday. This one is more useful, and funnier. Read the whole thing here. Also, don’t miss this, “Thanksgivingmanship: Your Guide to Surviving The Progressive Imbeciles Who Have Spent a Week Cramming on How to Survive You” at AceOfSpadesHQAceOfSpadesHQ.
Uncle Strickland writes:
Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for publishing my column. I’m a big fan of this holiday because few things are more American than boozing up and chowing down ’til your ankles swell and your corduroys pop. In between, you get to watch some football and share your thoughts on the trainwreck presidency of Barack Hussein Obama (hint hint). I consider myself a knowledgable debater because I read up on the blogs and I’m typically one
of the most “liked” commenters on the articles. The reason I’m writing this is because my brother’s dumb kid likes to get chatty with me. I’ve never seen anyone bring so many printouts to the dinner table.
“I’ll tell you what, why don’t you invite one of your ISIS pals around the house and we’ll see how much he likes it when I slash his guts out with the turkey knife. You think that’s what he wants? They want us to crush them?”
His “talking points,” he says. Reminds me of my last divorce, all those friggin’ printouts. This kid, my nephew, will never admit to being a communist, it’s always this “moderate independent” crap. But his Facebook feed is full of Bernie Sandinista, if you know what I mean, and he recently tweeted some gibberish about riding the bus in Czechoslovakia and identifying as a “human being” instead of what he is, an American.
“Tell me something, how did you feel when your Little League team got mercy-ruled by those country boys in the district finals? Is that what you wanted? Were you just phoning it in for the “participant” trophy? Is that why you’re too afraid to shave that pathetic beard?”
He’s been a “student” at some Ivy League circlejerk for the better part of a decade. I think he’s 29, who the hell even cares? If he’s the future, this country’s digging its own grave and I’m glad I won’t be there when it finally kicks the bucket. Read the rest of this entry »
How Bulletproof Is Thanksgiving Dinner? Find out in this episode of How Bulletproof. How Bulletproof is a web series that compares regular objects against the $299 BulletSafe Bulletproof Vest by shooting them with a .50 Cal Desert Eagle, one of the world’s most powerful handguns. The results are eye-opening and fun to watch. http://www.BulletSafe.com
The Party’s Over, detail from cover of Saturday Evening Post January 2, 1960. Art by Ben Kimberly Prins
This “bird’s-eye view” illustration by Harrison Cady is from an unknown issue of Boy’s Life magazine.
Headshot portrait of American actor and singer Annette Funicello, posing with her head encircled by a decorative Christmas wreath, circa 1955. There is a large ribbon above her head. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
[PHOTO] International Space Station Decorated with Christmas Stockings: ESA Astronaut Samantha CristoforettiPosted: December 25, 2014
ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is in the holiday spirit as the International Space Station is decorated with stockings for each crew member and a tree.
— FOX 11 Los Angeles (@myfoxla) October 30, 2014
Vintage Halloween Candy Witch
These Watches Are Perfect for Halloween…or Any Other Day
These watches are a bit funky, a little scary, a lot out of the ordinary. In short, they’re perfect for this macabre season. But don’t worry—these are meticulously crafted watches that can be worn all year round (unlike those plastic vampire teeth).
Speake-Marin Mirror Skull
US $18,900, limited edition of 20 pieces, www.speake-marin.com
Watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin, a Brit living in Switzerland, is known for his attention to detail, fine finishing and high-end watchmaking. The skulls on the dial are etched using chemical engraving.
Artya Werewolf with Blood Dial
7,900 CHF, unique piece, www.artya.luxuryartpieces.com
Halloween has become one of the three largest Western-influenced events celebrated in Japan following Christmas and Valentines’ Day. Though the spooky festival’s cultural origins are not the reason why the celebrations are observed, the Japanese do enjoy getting decked in themed costumes, thus making it a major commercial celebration for many.
The widespread popularity of the festival has resulted in confectionary makers rolling out Halloween-themed goodies, restaurants preparing Halloween-inspired menus, fashion outlets retailing Halloween-related costumes and accessories, and of course, entertainment facilities going all out with Halloween events.
We’ve put together a concise guide to some of the Halloween festivities taking place this year, so if you’re planning a trip to Japan during this season, here’s what you can expect!