U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the decision of a news agency to publish a photograph of a mortally wounded soldier is "appalling."
Secretary Gates wrote a letter to Associated Press president Thomas Curley criticizing the news agency's decision to distribute the picture. Gates also asked the agency to reconsider its choice.
The photo shows 21-year-old Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard from the northeastern state of Maine after he was stuck by a rocket grenade during a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan.
Associated Press photographer Julie Jacobson captured the image of fellow Marines helping Bernard.
The Marine suffered severe leg injuries and later died from his wounds.
Bernard's father asked AP not to release the photo. In a statement Friday, AP's director of photography said the agency feels it is a journalistic duty to show the reality of war.
The Associated Press has also released journal entries from Jacobson, who was embedded with the unit during the attack.
Jacobson defends her decision to send the photo to the agency. She says an image "makes people see what it really means to have young men die in combat."
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.