Lorient had a strategic role in the Battle of Atlantic during World War II. From 1940, Admiral Dönitz, Commander-in-Chief of the navy decided to base some German submarines in French ports including Lorient.
In June 1940, 1500 workers took part in the construction of a submarine base in the southern part of the town in order to protect the German submarines from English air bombings. Indeed, the base was reputed indestructible. That’s why many bombings transformed the town in a vast field of ruins: Lorient was four-fifths destroyed because of heavy air attacks in January and February 1943.
During the American relief of Brittany in August 1944, the German army established in Lorient, entrenched itself in a “pocket” which included Lorient, the Laïta banks, Guidel, Gestel, Hennebont, Kervignac, Port-Louis, Etel’s river, Quiberon Peninsula, Groix, Belle-Ile and Hoedic. Germans occupied the submarine base in order to prevent the Allied to use it as a logistics base. From 1942, Hitler ordered to German soldiers established in Lorient to resist 56 days in case of Allied attack.
When American troops of General Patton arrived in Brittany, 2000 German soldiers took the direction of Lorient. During the formation of the “pocket”, 2000 civilians were trapped. The daily life was difficult because of requisitions led by Germans and supply problems which caused dietary shortage in some areas.
An American division and French resistance fighters had the responsibility to organize a blockade on the area during 9 months until the German surrender on May 10th in 1945. Indeed, German soldiers suffered from the lack of food.
The 100 000 civilians who did not want or were not able to be evacuate welcomed the Allied with a feeling of frustration. Indeed, they were not released at the same time of the rest of the territory. They had the feeling that they had missed the Liberation.
Both American and German used artillery during the fights. It caused much more damages in the town that those caused by bombings.