The Allies said the six-day-old Viet Cong drive was broken at least. But a high American official warned that another guerilla invasion of the cities may be coming.
Three miles north of Saigon, U.S. and South Vietnamese troops reported themselves locked in heavy fighting against 600 Viet Cong trying to flee in sampans and on foot.
Military spokesmen reported fresh guerilla assaults against more than a score of cities and towns last night and today. But they said the pitch of battle had fallen. Only at Hue did major fighting roar.
At Hue, in the shattered beauty of the ancient imperial capital, 400 miles northeast of Saigon. U.S. marines fought their way into the Hue prison and found the Viet Cong had freed 2,000 captive comrades. In Hue's walled "forbidden city," about 1,000 Viet Cong were staging a suicide stand against South Vietnamese marines.
The high-ranking American official, talking to newsmen, said about 36,000 Viet Cong had thrown themselves against about 35 cities and towns. The cost in blood so far was announced as 13,195 Communists killed and about 1,000 Allied soldiers, including 318 Americans, dead.
The official said Saigon was considered a most likely target for another Viet Cong strike. He said U.S. commanders had been surprised by the size and intensity of the Viet Cong drive in from the jungles this week.
He said that Hanoi apparently had the feeling that people in the cities would rise up and support the Communists.
"If this has been the main theory, I think it is obvious that effort has failed," he said and added:
"They have shown they are still capable of presenting a real military challenge. They certainly gave dramatic evidence of their ability to terrorize and disrupt."
In Saigon the South Vietnam government partially lifted its nation-wide 24-hour curfew.
Brig. Gen. John Chalson said, "I'm convinced that with the forces we have in Hue, it's just a matter of time. Within the next day or two, we'll have it cleared."
Just to the south of Hue, at the city of Da Nang, a Communist 40-round barrage of 120-mm rockets ripped into the American airbase today. U.S. spokesmen said one F-4 Phantom was destroyed and six more of the $2,500,000 jets were damaged.
U.S. spokesmen reported 14 American civilians slain in Hue.
U.S. commanders in that area said up to 50,000 North Vietnamese troops are poised for a follow-up offensive they said will dwarf all that has come before.
To the north of Hue, along the North Vietnam border, U.S. outposts from Khe Sanh on the west to Con Thien near the coast reported being hit by 650 rocket, mortar and artillery rounds yesterday. One marine was killed and 21 wounded.