Was there a U.S. military vehicle called a 'Crab'?

In the 1981 vampire novel They Thirst by Robert R. McCammon, some characters use a military vehicle called a ‘Crab’ to get through drifting sand/dunes/whatever. As I recall, it was a very capable vehicle. At the time, the Air Force (at least – the novel took place in the L.A. area, and I’d just gotten a job at Edwards AFB) still used M151 jeeps. The HMMWV ‘Humvee’ was still two years away at the time of the novel’s publication. The Panhard CRAB didn’t come out until 2012.

In 1981, was there a prototype or planned vehicle called a ‘Crab’ in the U.S. military? Or was the jeep-replacement purely out of the author’s imagination?

Sherman Crab mine clearing tank. WWII era.

Almost certainly not what you’re talking about (which sounds wholly fictional to me).

Correct. The vehicle in the novel was a newly-introduced piece of equipment.

You might be thinking of CRAWDADs (which were stored in the town of Crickwater until needed.)

(At the 11 minute mark.)

FWIW, here’s a Wikipedia list of military vehicles introduced in the 1970s.

(A book published in 1981 would have been written in the late 1970s at the latest, so that’s the appropriate list.)

“Crab” does not appear as the nickname of any in that list, and the US vehicles I saw seemed to all be M113 variants.

I will double down on “fictional”.

In the early '80s, the U.S. Army began developing armed dune buggies/sandrails, which would eventually become Fast Attack Vehicle and later the Desert Patrol Vehicle. After a bit of cursory research, I couldn’t find any firm info, but the Wiki article indicates the first prototypes were delivered in 1982.

At a guess, the author may have read proposals for such a vehicle or maybe some early references to its development, and added a fictional version of it to give his novel a technothriller vibe with cutting edge special operations tech. It’s not uncommon for technothrillers to try to anticipate cutting edge tech and then that tech winds up significantly different or never gets fully developed or deployed (the proposed RAH-66 Commanche attack helicopter may be the poster child for that - quite a few movies/video games/books/etc. featured it as a fully deployed vehicle while it was under development, but it never actually got deployed in the real world.)

There was a vehicle in Vietnam called the Mule, officially the M274. It had all wheel drive and all wheel steer (at least the earlier ones did) and was basically a 1/2 ton vehicle which served as a weapons platform for the recoilless rifle and other weapons. It could literally go almost anywhere and on any terrain. Perhaps it was the inspiration for the author’s “crab”.

There was also the Gama Goat, or M561, which was an articulated six-wheel semi-amphibious hauler.

I don’t recall it being described anything like a sand rail. The description, such as it was, was closer to the forthcoming HMMWV. The proposal for, or the actual designing of the Hummer (which means ‘lobster’ in German, BTW), was in the time frame of when the book was written; so it may indeed have been a case of the author ‘hearing something’ and then anticipating in the book.

My Factual Question has been answered. There was no late-'70s/early-'80s military vehicle called a ‘Crab’.

There is now:

See the OP. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: :stuck_out_tongue:

I’m not aware of a vehicle, but the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge is also known as one’s “Crabs.”

Tripler
These are Crabs you can be proud of.

I’m guessing that it was, or was based on, a real vehicle, but that the author assumed that it would be known by a nickname rather than its actual official name, and just guessed wrong on what the nickname would be.

Even further from a HMMWV, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (despite the name most of its personnel are actually civilians) has a vehicle known as the Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy, aka the CRAB:


Unfortunately, there’s not much information readily available on it on the Web (the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer pages discussing it all seemed to be non-functional when I tried to access them). I found what appeared to be a couple of references to it from 1984 as a recent development, but nothing concrete.

Seems pretty doubtful this is the vehicle in question, but it is at least a quasi-military vehicle called “Crab” that may have been operating when the book was written.

Any vehicle nicknamed “crab” should be able to move sideways. I can imagine the delight at a Pentagon cocktail party as a general boasts about how many of his troops have crabs.