The Shield outlined in blue and gold stands for the achievements in battle of Admiral Burke against the naval power of Japan. The fist and mace symbolize the offensive and defensive power of the new destroyer. The mace, also a symbol of authority, represents Admiral Burke's service as Chief of Naval Operations. It also refers to Admiral Marc Mitscher, an influential figure and mentor for whom Admiral Burke served as Chief of Staff. Admiral Burke's Destroyer Squadron 23, represented by the border of 23 ovals, was the only United States Destroyer Squadron awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, signified by the canton of blue, yellow, and red. The ovals also refer to the year 1923 in which Midshipman Burke graduated from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. Twenty-three also reflects Admiral Burke's distinguished service on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations as (OP-23).
The mounted figure of St. George recalls Admiral Burke's celebrated victory in the Battle of Cape St. George over Japanese naval forces. His mantle bears a gold cross for the Navy Cross awarded to the Admiral. The birch branch on the helmet represents Admiral Burke himself, a reference to his name derived from his Scandinavian heritage.
The red sea dragon symbolizes Japanese naval power assaulted by forces under Captain Burke's command. It is gorged with the two gold stars he was awarded for outstanding service. The lance impaling the dragon signifies ordnance on target. The capabilities of the new destroyer, the most powerful and survivable ever built, are signified by the full armor and equipment of the warrior St. George. The Admiral's nickname "31-Knot Burke" is recalled by the number 31 on the horse.
The motto "Built to Fight" is from Burke's remarks to the new crew about the destroyer, "This ship is built to fight. You had better know how."