The anchor represents the U.S. Navy and symbolizes Petty Officer Williams' rating as a Boatswain’s Mate. The mantle draped over it symbolizes sacrifice and unusual courage, recalling Williams’ demonstrated valor and leadership capabilities. A stylized Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration the United States can bestow upon a service member and awarded to Williams, is mounted upon the anchor. The stars upon the doubling of the mantle over the anchor reflect the numerous awards and combat achievement of Williams. The colors of the mantle refer to the United States and the national ensign. The color gold signifies excellence.
Dark blue and gold are the colors traditionally associated with the U.S. Navy and represent the sea and excellence. Red is emblematic of sacrifice and valor. The gold cross formally represents the Navy Cross awarded to Williams for extraordinary heroism during operations on the Mekong River in Vietnam. The hexagon with three wavy piles reversed symbolizes the Mekong River Delta where Williams distinguished himself in so many engagements against enemy forces. The stars at the top of the shield recognize his two awards of the Silver Star. The color gold denotes excellence and honor. USS JAMES E. WILLIAMS' motto is “LEAD FROM THE FRONT,” a motto which embodies Petty Officer James E. Williams' tenacious fighting spirit and dignifies ship's legacy.