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History obsession leads to unlikely friendship between twins and WWII veteran

Twins befriend WWII vet after hearing his story
Young twins befriend WWII veteran after hearing his story 02:37

Charleston, South Carolina — This story began in Raleigh, North Carolina, with a flurry of plastic bombshells. As CBS News first shared in 2015, Carter and Jack Hanson were really into the game Battleship, 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. On that same trip the twins learned about 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 by their beds.

Carter and Jack Hanson with WWII veteran Robert Harding.  Scott Hanson

Give them the chance and they'd chew your ear off about Harding and what he did onboard as a plane handler.

"When the plane is ready to launch, he would go unstrap this and the plane would go flying that direction," Jack said. 

The folks who run the Yorktown say a lot of kids love the ship, but no kid has ever fallen for a sailor who served there like these two have fallen for Harding. 

Which is 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 enjoyed it more — or who needed it more.  

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

"I guess I needed somebody to talk to about it," Harding told CBS News. "It's surprising the way it worked out."

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

Once, they even turned the tables on Harding, surprising him at his house in Oklahoma.

Whoever said history is irrelevant, obviously, never fell in love with it.

"We don't know about how we've changed his life," Carter said, "but we know that he obviously changed ours."

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