Born on the Fourth of July

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Born on the Fourth of July (ISBN 1-888451-78-5) is the best selling autobiography of Ron Kovic, a paralyzed Vietnam War veteran who became an anti-war activist. Kovic was born on July 4, 1946, and his book's ironic title echoed a famous line from George M. Cohan's patriotic 1904 song, "The Yankee Doodle Boy" (also known as "Yankee Doodle Dandy"). The book was adapted into a 1989 Academy Award winning film of the same name co-written by Oliver Stone and Ron Kovic, starring Tom Cruise as Kovic.



Born on the Fourth of July was written in Santa Monica, California during the fall of 1974 in exactly one month, three weeks and two days.[1] It tells the story of Kovic's life growing up in Massapequa, New York, joining the United States Marine Corps right out of high school, going to Vietnam for two tours of duty, getting shot, finding himself paralyzed and in need of a wheelchair, and eventually starting a new life as a peace activist.

Differences with the film adaptation

  • Ron Kovic is shown to have confessed his supposed role in the Marine Corporal's accidental death to the deceased man's sympathethic parents and widowed wife, who admits that she cannot find it in her heart to forgive him, but God might do so. In reality, this meeting never happened, but director Stone admits this was done to add to the inner conflict Kovic was going through and to give him some closure.[2]
  • Kyra Sedgwick's character of Donna, Ron's on-screen high school sweetheart, never existed and did not inspire him to become an anti-war activist. The film portrays Kovic watching her protest after the Kent State Shootings and get beaten up by police. Although Kovic did not witness the protest in person, he nevertheless did watch the event on television, and the memoir states that he was outraged by the treatment of the protestors, much like his feelings towards the treatment of his fellow veterans.[3]

Cultural references

  • Folk musician Tom Paxton adapted the book into a song of the same title.

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