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It seems that the fact that Normandy lies close to the United Kingdom must have played a role. However, parts of the Netherlands and Belgium are (almost) just as close, or even closer. So why not start the invasion there? Where there political reasons (e.g. de Gaulle wanting to have France liberated first) or perhaps military reasons for this choice?

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    This is a trivial question. A quick search on the internet gives an answer with as many details as desired. – Alex Aug 18 '15 at 1:31
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From the wikipedia article of the Normandy landings

"Four sites were considered for the landings: Brittany, the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, and Pas de Calais. As Brittany and Cotentin are peninsulas, it would have been possible for the Germans to cut off the Allied advance at a relatively narrow isthmus, so these sites were rejected.[19] As the Pas de Calais is the closest point in continental Europe to Britain, the Germans considered it to be the most likely initial landing zone, so it was the most heavily fortified region.[20] But it offered few opportunities for expansion, as the area is bounded by numerous rivers and canals,[21] whereas landings on a broad front in Normandy would permit simultaneous threats against the port of Cherbourg, coastal ports further west in Brittany, and an overland attack towards Paris and eventually into Germany. Normandy was hence chosen as the landing site."

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    I should have spotted that part in the wikipedia page. Still leaves the question why they did not consider landing in Belgium or the Netherlands. – Funzies Aug 17 '15 at 15:20
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    @Funzies: The entire width of the Normandy invasion area, from the furthest tips of Utah and Sword beaches, is about 60 miles (100 km). The distance from Calais to Bruges at the north end of the Belgian coast is only slightly longer, about 70 miles (115 km). An invasion at Calais would have been an invasion of the Belgian coast, directly into the teeth of German Fifteenth Army headquartered near Lille: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Beach#/media/… – Pieter Geerkens Aug 17 '15 at 16:17
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    @Funzies: As for the Dutch coast, not only would the debacle of Walcheren in 1809 preyed on the minds of the planners, but the entire area is polder crisscrossed by canals - completely unsuitable for armoured forces. (As XXX corps discovered in mid September, 1944, attempting to break through to Arnhem.) – Pieter Geerkens Aug 17 '15 at 16:19
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    @Funzies - Not really. Any concerns about "numerous rivers and canals" would apply double for the entire low countries – T.E.D. Aug 17 '15 at 16:40
  • @Funzies and in addition to Pieter's excellent observation, the allies DID try a limited scale landing on the Dutch coast to secure the Westerschelde and with it access to the port of Antwerp. It quickly bogged down in mud and bogs bad enough even infantry on foot couldn't advance. The operation was an utter disaster. – jwenting Aug 20 '15 at 6:23

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