Memory is a hallmark of immunity. Memory carried by antibodies is largely responsible for protection against reinfection with most known acutely lethal infectious agents and is the basis for most clinically successful vaccines. However, the nature of long-term B cell and antibody memory is still unclear. B cell memory was studied here after infection of mice with the rabies-like cytopathic vesicular stomatitis virus, the noncytopathic lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (Armstrong and WE), and after immunization with various inert viral antigens inducing naive B cells to differentiate either to plasma cells or memory B cells in germinal centers of secondary lymphoid organs. The results show that in contrast to very low background levels against internal viral antigens, no significant neutralizing antibody memory was observed in the absence of antigen and suggest that memory B cells (i) are long-lived in the absence of antigen, nondividing, and relatively resistant to irradiation, and (ii) must be stimulated by antigen to differentiate to short-lived antibody-secreting plasma cells, a process that is also efficient in the bone marrow and always depends on radiosensitive, specific T help. Therefore, for vaccines to induce long-term protective antibody titers, they need to repeatedly provide, or continuously maintain, antigen in minimal quantities over a prolonged time period in secondary lymphoid organs or the bone marrow for sufficient numbers of long-lived memory B cells to mature to short-lived plasma cells.