Robert Ronca was born on October 21, 1923, in Norristown, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve on December 12, 1942, and entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on June 30, 1943, earning his commission as a Flight Officer and his pilot wings at Foster Field, Texas, on March 12, 1944. After serving as a test pilot at Perrin Field, Texas, FO Ronca deployed to New Guinea in June 1944, and served as a C-47 Dakota and C-46 Commando pilot with the 69th Troop Carrier Squadron from June 1944 to February 1945, followed by service as a C-47 pilot with the 318th Troop Carrier Squadron from February to November 1945. Lt Ronca returned to the U.S. in November 1945, and then served at Greensboro, North Carolina, Ellington Field, Texas, and Keesler Field, Mississippi, before leaving active duty and joining the Air Force Reserve on December 11, 1946. He joined the Pennsylvania Air National Guard on March 16, 1950, and went back on active duty with the U.S. Air Force on January 10, 1951. After completing F-86 Sabre transition training, he served with the 335th Fighter Interceptor Squadron in Korea from November 1951 to July 1952, and then served with Headquarters Air Force Armament Center (later Air Proving Ground Center) at Eglin AFB, Florida, from July 1952 to February 1960. During his tour in Korea, Lt Ronca was credited with the destruction of 1 MIG-15 in aerial combat. Capt Ronca next served as an F-100 Super Sabre pilot with the 77th Tactical Fighter Squadron at RAF Wethersfield, England, from February 1960 to July 1963, followed by service as Commander of the 613th Tactical Fighter Squadron at England AFB, Louisiana, from July 1963 until he was killed in action over Laos while on temporary duty to Southeast Asia on February 19, 1965.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
Major Robert F. Ronca distinguished himself while engaged in military operations involving an opposing armed force in Southeast Asia on 19 February 1965. On that date, Major Ronca led an air strike on an objective of extreme importance. After aggressively attacking the target on the first pass, Major Ronca's aircraft was severely damaged by the intense ground fire. Realizing the importance of totally destroying his objective, Major Ronca, with complete disregard for his own safety, reassured his flight that he could continue the mission and did aggressively lead a second attack. Although his aircraft was critically damaged, a determined attack was successfully completed resulting in heavy damages to the opposing forces before his crippled aircraft crashed into the target area. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and exemplary devotion to duty, Major Ronca reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.