For 60 years, a brown German army hat has been in Lee French's family, part of the spoils of war won by his father, a World War II veteran. Now, the Medford, Ore., man wants to return...

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MEDFORD, Ore. — For 60 years, a brown German army hat has been in Lee French’s family, part of the spoils of war won by his father, a World War II veteran.

Now, the Medford, Ore., man wants to return the hat to its rightful owners, even though they are probably half a world away.

His father, Staff Sgt. Robert French, got the German officer’s cap — which has a golden braid and two Nazi swastikas on the front — after his Jeep broke down near the end of the war in Europe.

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“About that time, a German patrol came along, and my dad hid in a hay loft of a barn,” Lee French told The Mail-Tribune in Medford. “I’ve always thought that probably wasn’t a good idea because that’s the first place they’d look.”

Sure enough, a German soldier eventually came to check out the barn.

“This officer climbed up the ladder and Dad shot him,” he said of the story he heard from his father. His father, who died in 1986, kept the officer’s hat.

“That’s all I know,” Lee French added. “I don’t know how many other guys were on patrol or how he got away.”

Prompted by recent newspaper accounts of the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, Lee French decided to try to find out who owned the hat. “I know the Germans kept very meticulous records,” he said. “With that registration number, I’m hoping there is a name to go with it.”

The registration number is 193487. Next to it in a little box is stamped the number 4.