Olga “Dusty” Lewandowski Lathrop was born in Newark, New Jersey, on 10 October 1924, to Polish immigrants. She attended Morristown High School and graduated in 1942. She worked briefly as a model for a hair salon.
Lathrop enlisted in the Air WAC in November of 1944. She completed basic training at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, in December of 1944 and was stationed at Truax Field in Madison, Wisconsin, where she worked in the obstetrics office at the air base hospital. After the war ended, she was transferred to nearby Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, a separation center, where she worked as a lab technician and in serology. She was discharged from the WAC in August of 1946.
Lathrop returned to Newark, where she worked in a department store. In 1947, she moved to Wisconsin and married Donley Lathrop, a submarine sailor she had met a Camp McCoy. They moved to North Carolina in the early seventies, eventually settling in Madison. The couple had eight children, four of whom joined the navy.