Memorial Day weekend seemed like a good time to consider some lists of the best war songs, and I was a little surprised at what I found. This list from hearya.com is mostly songs I don't know. This list from the-top-tens.com has Metallica at #1 with One, and so does this list from about.com. Most of the lists lean heavily towards protest songs, so you kind of need to find a country-focused list if you want a tad more patriotism for your Memorial Day weekend.
What stands out for me about all of these lists is that I tend to think of war songs as being mostly Vietnam songs and to a lesser extent cold war songs, but that just shows I haven't been paying attention to war songs for the last 20 years. One list that matched my tastes a bit better than the others was this one from mademan.com, but having scanned a bit of the rest of the mademan.com website, I'm not sure how I feel about liking that list the best.
Unless I missed it, I don't think any of the lists had CCR's Run Through the Jungle or Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth, and I would have thought Apocalypse Now would have catapulted The Doors' The End onto one of the lists. I was unsurprised to find that the Minutemen's Viet Nam wasn't on any of the lists, but it would be on mine. It was good to see Time Zone's World Destruction on one of the lists. The cold war generally didn't fare so well on these lists. Some other cold war classics to consider are Fishbone's Party at Ground Zero, Made For TV's So Afraid of the Russians, TV Personalities' How I Learned the Love the Bomb, The Clash's Ivan Meets G.I. Joe, and Sun Ra's Nuclear War.
I suppose they aren't really songs about war, but one also has to wonder where the Village People's In The Navy and Gang of Four's I Love a Man in Uniform belong in the pantheon of military music. For that matter, should we count Secret Agent Man?