The Twelfth Engineers, arriving in France in 1917, marched before King George, Queen Alexandra and Prime Minister David Lloyd George. There were 1000 men in the regiment, divided into companies of 250 each. Kelley’s Company D were mostly young men from Kansas City, MO which a great number of the other companies came from St. Louis and other nearby locales. You can see from Kelley’s letters written home during his basic training at Camp Gaillard on the banks of the Missouri River that his expectations were high. “This is the best education,” he insisted. “I will come back a man.”

After several weeks of basic training with outdated arms and equipment,the 12th was ordered overseas. Six of the railway engineer regiments, including Company D, would arrive in France before the first American Combat division was fully deployed.