SAIGON, Feb. 24, 1968 (UPI) - South Vietnamese troops blasted through a gate of the imperial palace today and won the 25-day battle for Hue. Grimy U.S. marines held back and watched as the government troops stormed the palace against light resistance. But the leathernecks and other allied troops sweeping through the two-mile-square Forbidden City surrounding the palace fought a series of fierce battles with pockets of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops.
According to official figures the battle for the old city cost 482 allied lives, including 119 Americans.
The Communist forces paid for their 25 days in the palace with 4,423 lives, the officials said.
At Khe Sanh, the U.S. marine base in South Vietnam's northwestern corner, North Vietnamese gunners launched their biggest artillery and rocket barrage and sent a battalion into attack at the base perimeter, U.S. spokesmen said.
The Americans struck back with B-52 bombers which flew seven raids over the jungle hills.
In other air action, U.S. fighter-bombers flew 60 missions against the city of Vinh, a main headquarters for North Vietnamese troops just north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
Another major action today was a rocket and mortar attack on a hospital and barracks buildings in the Tan Son Nhut airbase near Saigon.
Four Americans in the barracks were killed and 11 persons, mostly Vietnamese civilians, died in another area at the base. None of the patients at the hospital was injured.
The city of Hue was a ruin after the bloodiest and second longest battle of the Vietnam War. Only at Dak To last year, where U.S. and South Vietnamese troops fought for 26 days, did fighting rage longer.
Huge rats scurried in and out of rubble piles. Death was everywhere.
Today's fight for the palace began with a furious U.S. artillery barrage that covered an attack by elements of the South Vietnamese First Division.
The government troops capped the early assault by scaling a 197-foot tower to pull down the red and blue Viet Cong banner that had taunted U.S. marines for more than three weeks.