During the Vietnam war the squatting, or the fifth position, was known as the “rice paddy prone.” This was not the first use of the squatting position, however.

During WW1, land areas being fought over had been contaminated by mustard gas. Mustard and Chlorine gas is a persistent gas that lingers on the ground and leaves a visible residue on the ground and ground cover. You can see how chlorine stays at the bottom of this glass bottle below.

Touching the gas or residue leaves serious blistering and is corrosive on metal equipment. To keep out of the gas, rifleman simply squatted into a firing position, resting their elbows beyond their knee joints and were able to fire from a position that was almost as steady as the normal sitting position.

The squatting position was taught to infantrymen during WW2 and on into the Korea war because the possible use of gas still existed. Competitive four position rifle matches of the day often allowed a choice of either the sitting or squatting position.

During the Korean War fighting the squat regained some troop popularity because the position kept all but the rifleman’s feet off the frozen, wet or snow covered ground. The position is also very fast to get into and fire from compared to sitting or even kneeling. It was also faster and easier to get up from and continuing to advance, Something harder to to while under fire. Psychologically, it is theoretically easier to get men up and moving from squatting than prone, sitting or kneeling while under fire.

The Squat was used in rice paddy fighting, but most of the Korean War did not include extensive paddy combat. Following the Korea war, inclusion in formal training became sporadic. Vietnam had paddies everywhere and the water in the paddies was filthy, often including human waste. Some pretty exotic illnesses could develop from a dip in a Vietnamese rice paddy.

The troops did what they could to stay out of this mess. Combat rifleman adopted the “rice paddy prone” as an accurate, fast shooting position that offered a decently high line of sight while keeping them dry.

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