SAIGON, Feb. 6, 1968 (UPI) - Guerrillas leapfrogged from the flaming streets of Chinatown back into the center of Saigon today. To the north, U.S. marines ripped down a Red North Vietnamese flag that had enraged them and hoisted the Stars and Stripes over U.S. spokesmen said about 900 Viet Cong battled on in Saigon, possibly moving in reinforcements in the ninth day of the guerrilla invasion of South Vietnam's cities.
Allied divebombers, tanks and artillery struck the Communists in Saigon's Chinatown but the guerrillas attacked one police station after another, brought U.S. naval headquarters in Vietnam under fire and attacked the main gates of Tan Son Nhut Airbase.
U.S. marines fought large-scale engagements around the coastal city of Quang Tri just below the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and outside Da Nang as spokesmen warned the Communists appeared to be trying to isolate the big cities of Saigon, Hue and Da Nang.
In the air war, U.S. planes battled Communist MIG's in a series of dogfights near the northern capital of Hanoi and each side lost one plane shot down. B-52's again hit the Communist troop buildup near Khe Sanh while other planes pounded Communist positions in South Vietnam.
At Hue, 400 miles northeast of Saigon, marines under Capt. Ron Christmas smashed through Communist fire and seized the capitol building from the Reds.
Despite American practice that calls for raising only South Vietnamese flags over South Vietnamese buildings, three marines yanked down the Red flag from the capitol of Thua Thien Province and ran up the U.S. flag.
Pfc. Walter Kaczmaret of Port Reading, N.J.; Pfc. Allen McDonald of Jacksonville, Fla., and Sgt. Frank Thomas of Camden, N.J., saluted their work. Machine-gun fire splattered in the blood-smeared streets below. Wisps of tear gas floated up to them.
Communist resistance in Hue appeared to be weakening, but guerrilla reinforcements apparently were slipping into Saigon, threatening still more action.
U.S. intelligence reports said up to 4,500 Communist troops were massed north of the capital and were being closely watched for any drive into the city. In Saigon, U.S. sailors fought off sniper fire at their once sedate Phan Dinh Phung Street headquarters.
U.S. spokesmen also reported heavy fighting in the approaches to the tense North-South Vietnam border. They said that for the first time the North Vietnamese have moved their antiaircraft missiles (SAM's) into South Vietnam.
They said marine jets attacked the supply center for the SAM's. It lay only six miles north of Khe Sanh, the key American bastion on the border.
The Communists rained in more than 170 rounds of mortars and rockets today on Khe Sanh, killing one marine and wounding five. But probing attacks yesterday were thrown back.
The U.S. command disclosed that 12,000 men - almost a full division - had been shifted into position just below the DMZ at the western end of the line - two brigades of the First Air Cavalry and one brigade of the 101st Airborne Division.
This brought U.S. strength in the two northernmost provinces to more than 50,000. Opposing them was a like number of North Vietnamese.