The U.S. military tracks Santa Claus while he delivers his presents each year, but the decades-old tradition started out completely by accident.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, is famously known for defending the U.S. from nuclear missiles and enemy aircraft. It also uses its state-of-the-art technology to track Santa Claus as he makes his way across the world delivering presents. The high-tech Santa Tracker follows the jolly elf in real-time and includes a “gifts delivered” counter.
The Pentagon started the holiday tradition in 1955 when a local media advertisement directed children to call Santa himself, only the number was misprinted and instead sent them to the crew commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, the predecessor to NORAD. The Pentagon decided to keep the tradition, and now children young and old can watch Santa deliver presents live.
“NORAD Tracks Santa is truly a global experience, delighting generations of families everywhere,” said the Pentagon in a statement. “This is due, in large part, to the efforts and services of numerous program contributors.”
Santa delivered more than 7.28 billion presents — one for each person on Earth, according to NORAD. While Santa completed his journey last night, you can check out some pictures of his various deliveries by using the map above.
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