Ho-Ho-Who?
December 23, 2014 6:13 AM   Subscribe

 
They were originally supposed to be tracking Satan.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:26 AM on December 23, 2014 [23 favorites]


That story got me. Little misty-eyed here.
posted by papercake at 6:27 AM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


"The little voice started crying." :-(
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:31 AM on December 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


They were originally supposed to be tracking Satan.

Commander: "Who's that over the North Pole?"
Airman: "It's Stan again, sir"
Commander: "...shoot him down."
posted by surazal at 6:34 AM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


"The little voice started crying." :-(

That poor kid. "What is Santa being so mean? Have I been naughty?"
posted by leotrotsky at 6:37 AM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wait...I thought NORAD's number was just a few digits off of Protovision's.
posted by MrGuilt at 6:42 AM on December 23, 2014


"You know, he was an important guy, but this is the thing he's known for."

And thank fuck for that; imagine if he were known for starting (or ending) a nuclear war.
posted by chavenet at 6:45 AM on December 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Wait...I thought NORAD's number was just a few digits off of Protovision's.

This was back in the '50s - there were only about a hundred and thirty phone numbers in circulation at the time, all three digits long. There was a lot of cross-chatter back then.
posted by FatherDagon at 6:49 AM on December 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


They were originally supposed to be tracking Satan.

I think you meant to say they were supposed to be tracking (cue echo chamber) SATAN!
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 7:02 AM on December 23, 2014


This makes me feel even worse about the time I flipped two digits in an article and replaced a financial-advice hotline with a phone sex number.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:03 AM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


This was back in the '50s - there were only about a hundred and thirty phone numbers in circulation at the time, all three digits long. There was a lot of cross-chatter back then.

And they all wore an onion on their belt as that was the fashion at the time.
posted by NoMich at 7:09 AM on December 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


They were originally supposed to be tracking Satan.

They both have the same letters in their name, they both wear red and black, and you never see them together...
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:18 AM on December 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


Combination of heartwarming and terrified here (unencrypted phone line that could start WW3)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:24 AM on December 23, 2014


Combination of heartwarming and terrified here (unencrypted phone line that could start WW3)

That jumped out at me too. It's like a real-life Three Days of the Condor. I always thought the least believable part of that was when he calls CIA HQ from a payphone and says "I'm Condor" and then people start getting shot. It looks like this was not far off from that.

I also was sad for the little kid crying and I wonder if he answered the rest of the calls with extra enthusiasm to try to make up for that first one. I know I would have.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 7:30 AM on December 23, 2014


A few years ago, a certain US state created a new all purpose call center for their public programs with a name and number similar to our call center. I came into the office the following morning and had 86 phone messages mostly from people cursing me out and/or desperate cries for help because I had denied them unemployment or family assistance funds. Some of those calls were just heart-breaking. (On the other hand, there was the hilarious drunk guy who reported that his ex-girlfriend had cheated on him and alleged that she was cashing in her food stamps for drugs. He then went on to provide us with her 17-digit Social Security number before correctly repeating the name of our company indicating that he had actually listed to my outgoing message and still decided to leave that message.)

I would rather have pretended to be Santa.
posted by dances with hamsters at 7:33 AM on December 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


"This was the '50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States,".....

Well, the first guy likely to know, aside from the Soviet Launch commanders, would be a low-ranking American enlisted man sitting on an Elint site in Turkey, Shemya, or northern Japan. He would hit the record button and spend the next 5 minutes waiting for the External Analysis guy in the other room to break out enough telemetry to determine if 1) this was an ICBM or some goddam thing else, and 2) whether the United States (and parts of Canada and Mexico) still would be there after the 23 minute flight time it takes the missiles to cross the north pole.

The colonel in the article probably wouldn't be on the list of VIPs who'd get to run for the bunkers under the NSA building, but he would have a 50/50 chance of surviving the first strike if he happened to be in North Dakota, or wherever the hell that NORAD bunker was. The guys in our own silos would survive if they weren't specifically targeted, but, according to the wisdom at the time, they might not get to come out of the silos for 50 years or so. On the other hand, if their launch was successful, they would have the satisfaction of knowing that they sent a payback missile that probably killed a few hundred thousand Soviet citizens. Of course, they'd never know for sure, because the second and third strike batteries would have launched, and the Polaris subs would have surfaced to do their thing, but they could at least hope that they got one off for good old Uncle Sam before the world effectively came to an end.

We old farts who were still in elementary school at the time (early 1950's) would all get to duck under our desks and put our textbooks over our heads to shield us from...well, to keep us busy with the illusion that we were going to survive whatever hell was about to be rained down upon us, until it was time to, um, add our shadows to the wall, as it were.

Ah yes. It'll be Santa coming down my chimney instead of a Fractional Orbital Bomb.

Ho, Ho, fucking Ho.
posted by mule98J at 9:19 AM on December 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Previously.
posted by Night_owl at 9:30 AM on December 23, 2014


This makes me feel even worse about the time I flipped two digits in an article and replaced a financial-advice hotline with a phone sex number.

Something something getting screwed something something happy ending.
posted by nubs at 9:47 AM on December 23, 2014


Not so much.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:28 AM on December 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Horace Rumpole: Not so much.
I almost wish we could swap this link for the one in the post. The story from Shoup's children is sweet, but the real story is so much more interesting.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:20 PM on December 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


In the early days of the Cold War, an all out exchange would have been survivable for a lot of people, at least in the short term because the missiles were only accurate to within a few miles. They were loaded with larger bombs at the time, but the way the damage patterns work is such that the kill radius does not grow linearly with the size of the nuke. Not that I would have wanted to survive the initial blast, given that the likely outcome would be a death from radiation poisoning or starvation over the next week or two.

By the early to mid 70s with the advent of MIRVed ICBMs with much more accurate delivery of many smaller bombs, the chance of surviving the blast damage was far lower.

Needless to say, it's good that both sides hesitated when push came to shove and didn't actually launch on (false) warning. Much nicer to have NORAD spend its time on tracking Santa.
posted by wierdo at 3:20 PM on December 23, 2014


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