from the Archives

Catapult Diver at the MacFadden-Deauville Hotel

This past year MDPL member Nancy Usatschew generously donated her family’s vintage photographs and articles from the 1930’s- 1940’s. In the 1940’s, twenty-four year old Walter Bura was the world’s number one rocket man, flying through the air without wings or a parachute. When Walter was studying engineering at New York University, he spent $1,000 in research and models and perfected a catapult that would throw a one hundred fifty-five pound log three hundred feet. The young inventor soon was substituting himself for the log and began taking daily trips into the stratosphere. Twenty-four thousand pounds of pressure was released when the trigger was tripped, which rendered him unconscious for the first second of the four and a half second flight.  Shown are archival photographs of him at the MacFadden-Deauville Hotel, where he zoomed three hundred and fifty feet through the air, attaining a speed of two hundred miles an hour, in the first twenty yards of flight from his homemade catapult.

Unfortunately, at one of the shows, Bura seriously injured himself while doing his act for the newsreel cameras. He received injuries to his hands and a dislocated knee when thrown from the catapult. Hurtling one hundred and fifty feet through the air, he attempted unsuccessfully to straighten himself out before striking the water. The dislocation halted flow through his leg’s main artery. When doctors found that gangrene began to develop, they had to have his left leg amputated . Bura had been appearing in the MacFadden-Deauville’s water show for several months before the accident occurred, which was to be his last show. 

“Superman Bura Flies Through Space”
Bura flying through the air after being catapulted by his home-made device.
“Catapult Diver Loses His Leg”
Aerial view of the 1940’s MacFadden-Deauville Hotel
1939 Article from Blog Modern Mechanix
Walter Bura catapults through the air at the MacFadden-Deauville.

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