Buffy Sainte-Marie composed this and featured it on her debut album in 1964. The soldier in question represents every warrior throughout history, at different ages, from different religions, political beliefs and countries. The message is that he should take personal responsibility for his actions, instead of automatically responding to orders. If there were no soldiers, doing the leaders’ bidding, the wars would cease. The buck stops here. British singer-songwriter Donovan had a hit with the song in 1965.
This song stirred the blood when Phil Ochs performed it at anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights rallies. His song is from the point of view of a soldier as he is called on to fight through America’s history, culminating in the atomic bomb attack on Japan.