A study has been made of the influence of variable amplitude loading on Mode III (anti-plane shear) fatigue crack propagation in circumferentially-notched cylindrical specimens of ASTM A469 rotor steel (yield strength 621 MN/m2), subjected to cyclic torsional loading. Specifically, transient crack growth behavior has been examined following spike and fully-reversed single overloads and for low-high and high-low block loading sequences, and the results compared to equivalent tests for Mode I (tensile opening) fatigue crack growth. It is found that the transient growth rate response following such loading histories is markedly different for the Mode III and Mode I cracks. Whereas Mode I cracks show a pronounced transient retardation following single overloads (in excess of 50% of the baseline stress intensity), Mode III cracks show a corresponding acceleration. Furthermore, following high-low block loading sequences, the transient velocity of Mode I cracks is found to be less than the steady-state velocity corresponding to the lower (current) load level, whereas for Mode III cracks this transient velocity is higher. Such differences are attributed to the fact that during variable amplitude loading histories. Mode III cracks are not subjected to mechanisms such as crack tip blunting/branching and fatigue crack closure, which markedly influence the behavior of Mode I cracks. The effect of arbitrary loading sequences on anti-plane shear crack extension can thus be analyzed simply in terms of the damage accumulated within the reversed plastic zones for each individual load reversal. Based on a micro-mechanical model for cyclic Mode III crack advance, where the crack is considered to propagate via a mechanism of Mode II shear (along the main crack front) of voids initiated at inclusion close to the crack tip, models relying on Coffin-Manson damage accumulation are developed which permit estimation of the cumulative damage, and hence the crack growth rates, for arbitrary loading histories. Such models are found to closely predict the experimental post-overload behavior of Mode III cracks, provided that the damage is confined to the immediate vicinity of the crack tip, a notion which is consistent with fractographic analysis of Mode III fracture surfaces.