Warren P. Hickok broke his right leg as a boy. Payton L. Vanderpool Jr. had a missing front tooth.
Those physical characteristics eventually aided the identification of the men, decades after they were killed on December 7, 1941, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Using detective-like skills and personnel records, Pearl Harbor survivor Ray Emory, 91, has made it his mission to ensure graves are properly identified at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, which fills the Punchbowl crater in Honolulu.
So far, he has aided in the identification of nine service members who died that fateful Sunday morning.
"I sleep at night," Emory said. "It's very satisfying."
On Friday morning, the former sailor's efforts will be recognized during a ceremony marking the 71st anniversary of the attack.
"He is bringing closure to family," said Rear Adm. Frank Ponds, commander of Navy Region Hawaii. "It (also) brings closure to the shipmates and other survivors who served during this time."
Emory, a native of Peoria, Illinois, was serving as a seaman first class on the light cruiser USS Honolulu that fateful Sunday morning.
Flying from aircraft carriers, Japanese pilots attacked eight American battleships, destroying two, and left a trail of death and destruction. About 2,400 people, most of them in the military, were killed. The Honolulu escaped major damage.
The attack shook America's confidence and ushered the country into World War II.