In World War II, the Atlantic pockets were important points along the coasts of the Netherlands, Belgium and France chosen as centres of resistance by the occupying German forces, to be defended as long as possible against land attack by the Allies. As well as concentrating men and matériel to control the surrounding area, their purpose was to deny the use of port facilities to the Allies and to secure their continued use by German submarines in the Battle of the Atlantic. In addition, so long as they remained in German hands, they had propaganda value.
On 19 January 1944 Adolf Hitler declared fourteen places along the Atlantic Wall to be fortresses (Festungen), to be held until the last man or the last round—the so-called Atlantikfestungen. Other places were added to the list after the Allied invasion on 6 June 1944 in further directives of 17 August and 4 September.
In France, six pockets were captured by the Allies between the initial invasion of Normandy in June 1944 and October 1944, after which the rest were put under siege. Three were liberated by French forces in April 1945, while the remainder surrendered after the capitulation of Germany in May 1945.
List of pockets in or offshore from France
The Atlantic pockets in or offshore from France, with the date any Allied assault began and date the defenders surrendered, are shown below.
|Place||Garrison||Allied assault began||Surrendered|
|Cherbourg pocket||Cherbourg||15.000 men||06 June 1944||30 June 1944|
|Saint-Malo pocket||Saint-Malo||12.000 men||03 August 1944||14 August 1944|
|Le Havre pocket||Le Havre||14.000 men||10 September 1944||12 September 1944|
|Brest||37.000 men||07 August 1944||19 September 1944|
|Boulogne-sur-Mer||10.000 men||17 September 1944||22 September 1944|
|Calais||7.500 men||25 September 1944||30 September 1944|
|Royan pocket [fr]||Royan||5.000 men||12 September 1944||17 April 1945|
|Pointe de Grave pocket [fr]||Pointe de Grave||3.500 men||12 September 1944||20 April 1945|
|Île d'Oléron||2.000 men||12 September 1944||30 April 1945|
|La Rochelle pocket [fr]||La Rochelle||11.500 men||12 September 1944||07 May 1945|
|Dunkirk||10.000 men||15 September 1944||09 May 1945|
|Channel Islands||28.500 men||Not attacked||09 May 1945|
|Lorient pocket [fr]||Lorient||24.500 men||12 August 1944||10 May 1945|
|Saint-Nazaire pocket [fr]||Saint-Nazaire||30.000 men||27 August 1944||11 May 1945|
- The island of Cézembre held out until 2 September 1944
- Rémy Desquesnes. Les poches de résistance allemandes sur le littoral français: août 1944 – mai 1945. Rennes: Éd. Ouest-France, 2011. ISBN 978-2-7373-4685-9; (in French).
- (fr) Stéphane Simonnet (2015), Les poches de l'Atlantique: Les batailles oubliées de la Libération Janvier 1944 - mai 1945, Tallandier, ISBN 979-10-210-0492-4
- Sortir de la Seconde Guerre mondiale (3/5): La libération des poches de l'Atlantique (in French), France culture - La fabrique de l'histoire, 6 May 2015, retrieved 14 Aug 2015