Born on the Fourth of July (ISBN 1-888451-78-5), published in 1976, is the best-selling autobiography by 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. 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.
I wrote all night long, seven days a week, single space, no paragraphs, front and back of the pages, pounding the keys so hard the tips of my fingers would hurt. I couldn't stop writing, and I remember feeling more alive than I had ever felt. Convinced that I was destined to die young, I struggled to leave something of meaning behind, to rise above the darkness and despair. I wanted people to understand. I wanted to share with them as nakedly and openly and intimately as possible what I had gone through, what I had endured. I wanted them to know what it really meant to be in a war — to be shot and wounded, to be fighting for my life on the intensive care ward — not the myth we had grown up believing. I wanted people to know about the hospitals and the enema room, about why I had become opposed to the war, why I had grown more and more committed to peace and nonviolence.