Obsession with History Leads to an Unlikely Friendship Between Twins and a WWII Veteran

Charleston, South Carolina “This story started in Raleigh, North Carolina, with an avalanche of plastic bombs. Like CBS News first shared in 2015Carter and Jack Hanson were really into the Battleship game, which led to a family vacation to see the Yorktown, a retired aircraft carrier in Charleston, South Carolina.

“I just realized how amazing history can be,” Carter said at the time.

And it was about to get even better. During that same trip, the twins learned of a World War II veteran named Robert Harding who served on the Yorktown. They got his email address, started corresponding daily, and even put his picture next to their bed.

Carter and Jack Hanson with World War II veteran Robert Harding.

Scott Hanson

Give them the chance and they’ll bite your ear off about Harding and what he did on board as an aircraft handler.

“When the plane is ready to take off, he would go and untie this and the plane would fly in that direction,” Jack said.

The folks who run the Yorktown say a lot of kids love the ship, but no kid has ever fallen in love with a sailor who served there the way these two fell in love with Harding.

That’s why, when CBS News visited the ship with the twins in 2015, the Yorktown made special arrangements for a surprise visitor.

Harding was there to surprise them and hugging an old salt never felt so sweet.

It was hard to tell who appreciated it more – or who needed it more.

Before he started corresponding with the twins, Harding said he kept most of his war stories to himself.

“I guess I needed someone to talk to about it,” Harding told CBS News. “It’s surprising how it worked out.”

Since 2015, the kids have stayed in touch with Harding, sending hundreds of signed emails, “your friends and shipmates.”

Once, they even reversed the situation on Harding, surprising him at his home in Oklahoma.

Whoever said the story was irrelevant, obviously never fell in love with it.

“We don’t know how we changed his life,” Carter said, “but we know he obviously changed ours.”

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